A Place to Bury Strangers - Belgrave Music Hall, Leeds - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

A Place to Bury Strangers - Belgrave Music Hall, Leeds

by Miz DeShannon Rating:10 Release Date:2012-01-15

Some things just can’t be replicated. And tonight, I get to see something that truly can’t be. Not the inside of Belgrave Music Hall, although it’s a pretty unique spot. No, A Place to Bury Strangers, one of the best things out of NYC in years, although they have been around for about 12 now and are currently pimping their fourth studio album, Transfixation.

They seem to have sprinkled - well, not sprinkled - rather vigorously dumped a whole heap of magic on that thing we love called noise-rock. Likened to NIN and MBV, and with a name that’s also initialised, APTBS could probably sit on the same bill, but really are quite different. So it’s relatively hard to find a decent line-up for their tour support, and going for contrast and compliment, September Girls bagged the job in Europe.

Before all tat though, local band Fawn Spots tak the opening slot. They have an almost full room, a pretty good following, and songs with 70s Brit-punk vibes. However, their execution of their more adventurous songs is poor, their set sketchy in places, and their image matches.

Sometimes basic is best, and Napalm Death-style short blasts seem to do the job nicely, amusingly throwing the half of the audience inexperienced in Fawn Spots’ music and prompting applause at just the wrong moments in a David Walliams/Spaced way. As an opening band they do pretty well, they get stuck in, get sweaty and make everyone make some noise.

September Girls, on the other hand, are somewhat lacklustre. They deliver, as expected, a harmonious venture into feedback-land, like a heavier Dum Dum Girls from that era of goth-look lo-fi, with harmonies which are very Frankie Rose. The wrong kind of feedback throws them a touch at the beginning, but they warm up as the set go on and tracks become less samey, marginally, with swingy hips and lots of reverb formula, nice hair and adventurous-shaped guitars.

Possibly too much guitar though; two along with a sampler, bass, and drums make lots of noise but not in the way which gives any precision. Songwriting is often pretty lost, and they don’t really look like they enjoy being there, even in a goth version of enjoyment. The Girls’ last song is probably their best – it seems to have been given the most thought, the most focus in writing and thinking about audible layers. Maybe they have severe production issues, but their set is really nothing new or ambitious or even well-executed which, having seen both the aforementioned likenesses, can be done with girly shoegaze.

After a longer than planned for wait, A Place to Bury Strangers appear, to much applause, but not yet to perform. A meticulous operation ensues, quite some time is taken to set up backlighting, strobes, innumerable pedals and bits of production machinery.

I thought it was the first time I’ve seen them with a drummer, I’m sure he wasn’t there at The Cockpit in 2012, but apparently he was. Must have been too much haze. They have to be the hardest band to photograph; I pity the people who had that job on the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club tour, so many strobes were involved…

Starting (predictably, or just getting it out of the way?) with latest single ‘We’ve Come So Far’, immediately the feeling is of a volcanic eruption if you’re an obsessed geologist – heart-thumping excitement. I cannot understand how these guys make so much noise yet retain maximum amount of clarity of every sound. Obviously I'm not proficient enough in sound engineering, but having heard so many bands who just don’t have it nailed, despite this absolute wall of noise from APTBS, it’s refreshing.

Four songs in and Ackerman is already throwing his guitar across the stage. Constantly evolving, exploding and annihilating, APTBS blast out a monumental performance which somehow seems hugely developed from the last time. I think they might have killed the PA; it stops part-way through, but somehow finds the will to carry on.

The set is so absorbing and transfixing (excuse the pun), I can’t even remember what tracks come where, but suddenly, around 45 minutes in, we're in the throws of some floorbased pow-wow. It even surprises the promoter – “I’ve put them on enough times before, and I’ve never seen them do this!”. There’s a first time for everything.

Equipment, instruments, band members on the floor in the middle of the venue surrounded by a cacophony of sound, flashing lights, nodding heads, mesmerising haunting vocals, and meticulously executed (in more ways than one) layers of absolute noise. Then it stops. And they’re gone. Game over. Stunned.

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