On arriving in Manchester, a quick check of my emails revealed an opportunity had also arisen to catch Scanners at The Ruby Lounge, whose “Submarine” album Tim Verhaegen had given a glowing review in his March round up. Fortunately stage times allowed for both, although a nifty sprint across town appeared in order.
With Deerhunter headlining tonight, a good sized crowd have assembled as Lower Dens take to the stage. Unusually, front woman Jana Hunter doesn’t position herself centre stage, preferring the shadows to our right, leaving the bass player in the spotlight. For the second time in less than a week, I find myself slightly at odds with the music, but more so the visuals on offer. Hunter in particular retains a lackadaisical, even bored persona and generally there is a lack of spark from the band as they plod their way through the opening songs from the set. If the intention is to project a stereotypical “whatever” attitude of American youth, that nail has been hit very firmly on the head. Musically, the songs are relatively simplistic, very basic rhythmically and only the lead guitar providing any real departure, with Hunter’s vocal being adequate, rather than rousing. Hunter has released two solo albums on Devendra Banhart and Andy Cabic’s Gnomonsong label, therefore I assume the overall sound is intentional rather than due to technical limitations.
Strangely, the highlight revolves around Hunter breaking a string and having to leave the stage, leaving bassist Geoff Graham to fill the gap with audience interacting chat. Not exactly a stand up routine, but Graham reveals a wry sense of humour until slightly confused by a shout of “What’s your favourite colour” unsure as to whether the question is serious or a joke. The break appeared perversely to galvanise the band, the second half of the set improving with the introduction of quicker tempos. I gained no inspiration from Lower Dens tonight, from the applause between songs and the reception given as the set concluded with “Holy,” once again I appeared very much in the minority.
B & S
The decision to leave Sound Control isn’t taken lightly, I would have liked to see at least a small portion of Deerhunter’s set. Timings emerged as slightly awry however and coupled with Tim’s review both intriguing and exciting me, I headed across town to The Ruby Lounge and Scanners.
And the baton is passed to Phil King, to take over reviewing Deerhunter:
Winging in all the way from Atlanta, Georgia is Deerhunter. Led by the slightly strange and painfully thin Bradford Cox, the band walk through the billowing clouds of dry ice and take their place on the Sound Control stage. Beginning their set with an improvised number called 60 Cycle Hum (I think), Deerhunter immediately gather up the crowd and hold them tight in a sonic embrace. It has been said that Deerhunter can at time be a difficult listen but tonight they tether the guitar experimentalism of guitarists Lockett Pundt and the aforementioned Cox, to the sure footed and inventive rhythm section of Moses Archuleta on drums and Josh Fauver on bass and it’s wonderful. Characteristically Deerhunter’s set tonight has a broad narrative in that the band has selected tracks from nearly all the records they’ve released so far and not just exclusively from their latest work ‘Halcyon Days’ However the band are forced to make a slight detour when they honour a request from a girl in the crowd to play ‘Like New’ from the Fluorescent Grey EP. It’s a nice touch that shows the humble nature of the band.
Amongst the shimmering pop songs the band slips in a small homage to Manchester by playing a sweet version of Magazines ‘The Light Pours Out Of Me’ They don’t fully manage to make it their own, who could? But they do make a good fist of it. But it’s the long workouts that allow Deerhunter to really shine. Once Fauver’s deep bass locks onto Archuleta’s rocksteady beats, it lets Cox and Pundt fill in the spaces with all kinds of brightly coloured guitar sounds. There are moments during these winding passages when the songs structure collapses in on itself that the band almost suspends the forward motion of time. And, just like a particularly vivid dream, just fall short of bringing it to a standstill. For their encore the band revisit their ‘Cryptograms, album and finally close the show with an epic rendition ‘Octet’. From the moment the music starts building from iridescent minimalism to full-blown sonic offensive, the transfixed crowd were almost in a state of reverence. Tonight was without doubt a triumphant return to Manchester by a band that’s defiantly in ascension.
60 Cycle Hum
The Light Pours Out of Me
Rainwater Cassette Exchange
Like New Fluorescent Grey
Nothing Ever Happened
He Would Have Laughed
Cover Me Slowly