Saturday, 12 October 2019


Concorde 2, Brighton, Thurs 3rd Oct

I possibly enjoyed this gig by classic Californian doom metalers Sleep even more than the last time, perhaps due to the smaller venue. It remains the combination of heaviness and unhurriedness which is so masterful, tracks developing at their own pace, the sound taking time to marinade. (Creatively described by the band as “rifftuals”.) It thickens to the point where it’s impossible to tell bass from lead for long periods.

Though another change from the earlier gig is the release of their post-reunion album, ‘The Sciences’. In fact the set list leans heavily towards it, not always a welcome development but which happens here without marring things in the slightest.

Perhaps a factor here is their original split being caused by outside events. Their label baulked at releasing ’Jerusalem’, consisting as it did of one long track, a blow which effectively killed the band. (Though happily it was later released in a still-longer version as ’Dopesmoker’.) Which led to a decade of what would have been their history being snatched away.

But now it’s as if, after being rudely awoken, Sleep went back to their slumbers and picked their dreams up precisely from where they left off. (Some tracks were already demoed pre-hiatus.) True, they’re no longer with their original drummer Chris Hakius. But Jason Roeder, having sat the stool with Neurosis for nearly two decades, makes a fitting replacement.

I’ve never heard the first album, made when they were still a four-piece, but the consensus seems their sound was then still emerging. Maybe they needed to reduce to a trio to hit on it, simultaneously tight and enormous. There’s one long number…. well there were lots of long numbers but one in particular… where each instrument took it turn at the fore. You might expect it from the guitar. It also included the drums, while the fret players threw out resonances. And, believe it or not, the bass. When there’s effectively a bass solo and I’m staying with it, that suggests a band which could do pretty much anything.

’Sonic Titan’ from London…

Rilato, Brighton, Sat 28th Sept

Partial Facsimile describe themselves as “a Brighton based surround-sound and visual-art collective specialising in research based projects, film soundtracks and site-specific performances.” I caught them four years ago providing a splendidly sense-shredding soundtrack to the classic ‘ Cabinet of Dr. Caligari’.

This show, ‘Media OS 5.1’, is about our modern information-drenched world. Or, as they put it, “the piece discusses the present overconsumption of digital information and its entertaining, yet beguiling effects on human behaviour.”

The two pieces are almost entirely different, as if each were worked out from the ground up. The only real similarity was the live film, though this time it was their own work and very much an accompaniment to the music. It felt, truth to tell, like a gig with an accompanying film. A series of songs, even if they were given linking sections.

The music was very post-punk in nature, channelling Joy Division down to the clattering metallic drums. If that description makes them sound derivative, it shouldn’t do. It was at the same time highly inventive, with each track being given a distinct character. Musicians swapped around, but the best moments may have been when three guitarists amassed for a sonic onslaught - post-punk into post-rock. And besides, as they say themselves:

“Partial Facsimile, has taken its name because we believe there is no such thing as any concept or product truly being original. We build on previous knowledge and apply our interpretation of the present through improvisation and composition.”

The weak spot, however, was the lyrics - which tended to the hackneyed. Pleas to consume less feel like the equivalent of those Sixties songs which went “hey Mr. Businessman, throw your tie away”. When the music’s effective at evoking a mood, as it is here, there’s no need for words to spell any of that out. It’s show not tell. (And let’s remember with Joy Division the lyrics tended towards the personal, any application of them as social comment lay in the mind of the audience.)

Perhaps the main thing about music should be the music. After all, many of those Sixties songs about “Mr. Businessman” are still good musically. Yet the film-show kept dragging your attention back to the lyrics. It was bookended with footage of tube travel. Which didn’t go well with the retro sound, as tube stations have scarcely changed any since Joy Division were around.

One sequence showed a QR code (those things which look like a crossbreed between a barcode and a crossword, and link to a website) as captivating a hopeless consumer with its array of wares, the Mephistophelian demon which has you convinced that it’s your servant. But there was also a QR code onstage which we were encouraged to snap to get extra info. (Useless to those of us without those cleverphones.)

The problem with this isn’t hypocrisy (we’re all going to be consumers to some degree so long as we live in a consumer society), so much as missed opportunity. With this sort of material there’s always going to be some conflict like that, and the best thing to do is to play into it rather than avoid it.

Which may be why music to capture our new quasi-virtual world is more commonly the electronica overload of Black Dice and others. Psychedelic music’s disorientation of the senses was back then an antidote to the workaday, suit-and-tie world, the sonic equivalent of Dali’s distroted timepieces. Electronica virtually reversed that, capturing the fear but at the same time the seductive sense of information as intoxicant.

My reaction to this mixed-media show was… well, mixed. My immediate reaction was to try and focus on the music itself and disregard all the surrounding themes. While… oh, the irony… the multi-media effects made that difficult.

A track from the album (as in not live)…

Patterns, Brighton, Sat 5th Oct

I could not now tell you hopw many times I’ve seen Japanese psychonauts Acid Mothers Temple, though it’s possibly now more than any other band. And I think it’s been long enough to pick up a change in their approach…

Time was when their fluidity seemed their strength. Their name was always appended with an ever-shifting second half (such as the Melting Paraiso UFO Club), with it shifted their line-up and with that their sound. All of which seemed part of the hippie philosophy of constant change, to give routine a moving target.

Their most recent release, ‘Paralzyed Brain’, bought at the previous gig to this, still specifies their line-up as “at the time of this recording”. But this may be the first time I’ve seen them with the same line-up twice in a row. And they’ve now dropped that second half to their moniker. (There’s still countless side projects, but they stem from an Acid Mothership.) Perhaps, after years of permanent impermanence, all that stardust is finally starting to coalesce into constellations.

Not that any of this holds them back in the slightest. Even when they play classic tracks from their catalogue, they always give them a new twist. Try this version of ‘Cometary Orbital Drive’, (actually from Brighton) with the languid mantra-riff guitar offset quite awesomely by the tight, urgent rhythm section…


  1. Last time they had Geoff Leigh sit in on flute, although I didn't make it to this show (i was away) I know he didnt play on this tour....
    So not quite the same lineup.

    1. Ack! Not only did I mean to mention that I even did! Must have overtyped it at some point in getting to the final version. Anyway, the same line-up minus guest stars!