- by charles filtness Rating: Release Date: Label:
Gigs like tonight are what we all hope for; two emerging bands, playing on the same bill in a tiny basement venue; blowing everyone away with the intensity of their performance. Both bands tonight are from Vancouver, they play their take on articulate indie guitar with heavy post-punk leanings and with a big influence, it seems in particular to bands like Gang of Four and others of the time with that distinctive angular guitar sound.
First up is N0V3L (that's a zero and a three I think). To call them the support band would be to do them a disservice. This is more a double headliner show which the crowd is well aware of as this sold out room is packed out well before they make the stage. It takes something special these days for an album to grab me in such a way that I'm compelled to listen to it on constant rotation, but that was exactly the response with N0V3L. Their debut, simply titled 'Novel' is an infectious, at times intricate delight with clean production that (lyrical content aside) can't help but lift you. With just eight tracks and clocking in at under 22 minutes, it’s no long player though.
On stage, they are a five piece tonight rather than six. The combination of drums and bass are the consistent driving force here. It is impossible not to notice the drummer, he sits up front centre stage playing with a Thunderbirds like articulated motion as though being controlled from elsewhere, its a wonder to see. The others play guitars and saxophone interchangeably with atmospheric backing sounds introducing the songs. They are a tight band, making an intense sound that often has a moodier or darker vibe than the record. They play a song towards the end of the set that I'm not familiar with, possibly titled 'Falling In Line". I sense something's not quite right but I'm not sure why, the lead singer drops out, clearly frustrated before the rest of the band follow; "....I'm sorry but we need to get this song right, it’s very topical to me..." he tells us. They start again, lyric sheets now at hand. The song is unlike anything on the record, it's an epic and sprawling highlight of the set. The singer seems to be barely keeping it together, the room, as well as the stage, feels emotionally charged. It's rare to witness a performance with such feeling evident; moments like this elevate a gig to something exceptional. By far it gets the biggest reaction from the crowd. Playing for nearly 45 minutes this band clearly has a lot more to offer.
Headlining is Crack Cloud, also in support of their debut released last year, which is a compilation of their first E.P.’s. They are a collective of musicians with seven on stage tonight; also from Vancouver and including 3 members of N0V3L. With a name such as theirs, they were unlikely to be the sort of band you could put on at your Gran's on a Sunday afternoon. No bad thing, and on stage, they have a look that is similarly complimentary. Again the drums are central with the drummer also on lead vocals. The spiky post-punk influences are here too but there is much more besides. There is free jazz style saxophone, vocals delivered with an element of indebtedness to early 90s rap, collective chanting and on set closer 'Swish Swash' the motorik drumming reminds me of Can. All delivered with a cohesive urgency, a monumental sound, at times menacing but never self-indulgent even when at times there are five guitars being played. The set never really allows you to settle, they constantly take you off in unexpected directions and time signatures. They get the crowd going as well, there is plenty that grooves. The biggest songs on the record are probably 'Drab Measure' and 'Image Craft' which are both loudly and excitedly received.
Both bands tour again later in the year but not on the same bill which really is a shame. Absolutely recommended.