Sunday, 14 March 2010

Bleaklow - L'Etranger

Bleaklow-an area of highland terrain in the Peaks that in the worst conditions may be the most taxing to brave. An immense landscape that may be both difficult and rewarding for those that persevere. Fittingly, Bleaklow is also the name chosen by a group of local student lads with a penchant for creating expansive soundscapes from their basement that may at times prove harsh, but are underpinned by a certain splendour. Clearly inspired by the vastness of the countryside surrounding our fair city, they take us on a real sonic journey, traversing unforgiving crunchy distortion towards flowing melodies of tapped guitars and finally lifting us upwards with moments of shimmering beauty.
What is astounding is that such an epic vision is achieved by an unsigned three piece. The whole thing just sounds so big. Each of the four tracks on this EP is distinctive, yet there is a seamless flow from one track to the next. From the sinister stab and shuffle that kickstarts opener ‘No Shadows’, to the swirling guitar lines of ‘Birdsong’, to the sombre serenity of ‘Belvedere’, and finally 10 minute closer ‘In the World to Come’ it provides a full showcase for their promising talents. This final track is the real highlight and truly marks the band out as ones to watch in future. Emerging in swells of feedback, we are taken through crushing riffs and onwards to a hopeful, uplifting close.
In a nutshell, their sound shares characteristics with the more recent output of Isis and Cult of Luna- widescreen instrumental metal, as comfortable with the serene as the tempestuous-and while they understandably aren’t quite as accomplished as such genre luminaries, this is as close as you’d ever expect to hear from such humble upstarts. Their talent and understanding of shifting dynamics is already evident and given time one can only hope that they can improve further.

4 stars

(I wrote this review a while ago but it got lost until now)

Dan Le Sac Vs. Scroobius Pip @ Foundry 14/03/10

Scroobius Pip has lofty ambitions. ‘I’ve decided I’m going to run for president, not Prime Minister, that sounds so boring…I’m going to become the UK’s first president’ he announces. Armed with props ranging from soapbox platforms, a hefty book from which he reads his ‘sermons’, an armchair to recline upon during instrumental breaks and the contents of a dressing up box, he holds us in a trance from start to finish. It’s almost tempting to believe his feat possible.
Yet we aren’t to forget that he operates as art of a duo, DJ Dan Le Sac fully staking a claim for recognition this evening. Their new album ‘The Logic of Chance’ has so far found a bemused response from critics due to its greater emphasis on the danceable, rather than the eloquent storytelling of their debut. This shift makes all the more sense in a live setting, helping break Pip’s spell and get our feet moving. Recent single ‘Get Better’, with its inherently singable chorus consisting of the repetition of its title, goes down particularly well.
Being the first night of their tour, the night doesn’t run perfectly smoothly. Le Sac has apparently ‘not saved’ the setlist on his laptop, and so for the most part the pair seem to be muddling through. ‘Magician’s Assistant’ with it’s the impact of a suicide is dropped very early on. This may or may not have been to plan, Pip remarking on the sombre tone set and calling for preceding numbers to be somewhat more upbeat. However, any lack of coherence across songs is bridged by the uncommonly compelling banter the two have between themselves and with the crowd.
‘Letter from God to Man’ is perhaps the perfect encore as a showcase of both men’s talents in the one’s remarkable depiction of a humble God’s dismay at the actions of mankind and the other’s inspired Radiohead sampling in the outro, which is twisted out into all sorts of new forms, making for a finale that gets the whole room bouncing.