Friday, October 19, 2007

Review of 12th October 2007

Tonight took me a bit further afield than usual, a short fifteen minute train ride and it's over to Northampton though to be more specific, the “Wedgewood”. Downstairs we have a very standard affair for the Kerrang! reading youth with all the obvious tunes on and posters adorning the walls. On the other hand, upstairs is claimed by Closed Captioned and we start to get more arty with what's going on, a line-up of bands with a film preceding them, it's a brave step to go into the more alternative and thoughtful scene, something that CC specialise in. After a bit of waiting and a couple of technical hitches, we're treated to a screening of a movie titled “Valhalla”. A dialogue driven piece based partially on samurai films like that of Akira Kurosawa, though set in the modern times around Milton Keynes (you may recognize some spots like Campbell Park). Without giving too much away, let's just say that it features the growth of a youth into a warrior, the fighting spirit and a philosophical look at what violence does to change someone. It wasn't too long, but I enjoyed it and everyone seemed to respect it as an artistic achievement. The Duke of Zuke is the source of the soundtrack for “Valhalla” and is also opening up the set tonight, and I'm quite thrown back by what I see and hear. On the outside we see one guy with a shitload of pedals and other equipment, but with me being a fan of the traditional far east I'm pretty much taken in by the tunes that develop. Starting with a slide on a string for some wailing tremolo effect and the same again with spanners and looping, it sets the scene for a lot of other leads and effects to be added and faded out ever so subtly. It doesn't stop there though, as further into the set we see far more being used to create the soundscapes, still sticking to an eastern theme but adding some slow techno beats and adding some edgy distorted guitar that fits in more comfortably with the Fortissimo style. As the track goes on, the drums are faded out as synths come in and the guitar work develops even more. And then that's about it, after two lengthy tracks, the Duke walks offstage and we are left wondering how versatile a guitar can be and that you don't need a full lineup to make a big impact. The Murmurists, a seasoned triad of prog rockers are next onto the set, with a mix of large bombastic sounds. I guess that looking on the whole thing at first, the music can sound a bit dated but it doesn't really work against the band that badly, even suiting them in a way. Altogether there's sounds similar to Rush, Planet X and Orbital sweeping around, the emphasis of a technology playing a fair part too the guys using laptops as much as a bass and keys and pedals creating a plethora of shifting sounds. It's not until late that it hits you that the set is one massive musical project, it is truly on quite a grand scale when considering the concentration, and planning that has gone into making their piece of musical sci-fi art. When the set is finished, the first thing to come to mind is “there is no way someone can take in everything”, and that's probably the key to The Murmurists' set. The sheer size and length of their sound coupled with the visualizations makes the whole thing so mind boggling that you would hear it in one way at first, but you will probably hear something else the second time. After some time of setting up, we have Thrulk come to the fore looking a bit like a jam band, forming a circle with keyboards and a drumkit. The setup is once again a three-piece, although Thrulk have a very different direction. “Bath Ducks”, their first song for example, starting off with fun beats and keys going all over the shop, then a while later you realise that sharp, edgy guitar line wasn't there, or even the fact that the music now sounds like something from a thriller movie. Then you have “Beef”that starts off with some fat guitar then drops into a digital minefield that ends up sounding like a Mega Drive gone gloriously haywire. There are changes that are subtle and many more that are sharp, it's like an idea struck and the song changes completely. Later on for the last track we see the guys switch keyboards and a shifty, martial-ish beat strikes up before more of those keys and synths enter. A massive decaying ensemble that has 8-bit beeps, pitch shifting and all manner of scales becoming more and more commonplace. It's very hard to describe sound as a genre, sure, there are rock elements with the guitars and drums, but the main melodies are from those keys and then you have a good few other styles to match in. To put it in a simple anecdote, Thrulk put their ingredients in a hypothetical blender of ideas and come up with groovy smoothie that will put a smile on your face. Looking back, I'd have to say that the whole gig was quite thought provoking, maybe even inspiring. I'm sitting on the last train to MK and all I can think of is if I can write, or encapsulate the night with such detailed sounds coming from all the bands. To just call all the bands progressive doesn't do it, neither does saying that Duke of Zuke created layers of eastern promise, that The Murmurers created an audio-visual landscape or that Thrulk were like a cross of Wolfmother and Mr Scruff. And maybe that's what prog is about, to challenge your ideas, your mind and ultimately your words...

Craig \m/

The Duke Of Zuke on Myspace
The Murmurists on Myspace
Thrulk on Myspace


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