It can be tough work, this reviewing lark. It can be an easy enough too, but not when you’re dealing with instrumental post-rock acts, especially when they’re showcasing albums that you’ve not actually heard.
Take sleepmakeswaves – who are worryingly, soundchecking as we arrive. The debut from the Aussie quartet …And So We Destroyed Everything is an pleasingly bracing listen, but distilling this sense of enjoyment into words is tricky when lyrics are absent, rendering song titles redundant for ID purposes.
The band are friendly enough but not doing ones for stage banter (maybe a good thing) and certainly not the types to helpfully announce each track in turn.
Their concerns are rightly more with the sound they make, and their modus operandi seems to be to generate as much volume as possible – even the bass has six strings to the usual four. This, combined with (more) guitars, added to a welter of synthesised samples, makes for a sound nothing short of epic.
They kick off with album opener ‘To You They Are Birds, To Me They Are Voices In The Forest’, which sets a marker for the set – a subtle start leading to a buildup of guitars and processed noise, before breaking down in the middle with some militaristic percussion. The wave of sound emanating from the stage literaly (yes, actually literally) pushes the audience backwards (a little) while gently caressing their hair. Velvet glove, iron fist. It’s an old cliche, as is the one about Scotland’s love affair with post-rock, and how Mogwai and Aereogramme have spawned some ragged-trousered offspring, so the question arises: why are these Aussies coming over here, playing in our darkened venues, taking on our funny time signatures, when they should be bronzing themselves on a beach? Truth be told, sleepamakeswaves are prety good at what they do (tunefully deafening their audience) and offer – as far as is possible – a new take on the genre. And our all-encompassing society should allow for that.
First time I saw 65daysofstatic they were playing in Glasgow’s tiny Ivory Black’s – a possibly unique ‘proper’ gig in what was a legendary pay-to-play venue. Tonight, times have changed as the Liquid Room – admittedly with the balcony closed off – is pretty well packed, showing how far the Sheffield foursome have come.
For the uninitiated, the band are harder to pigeonhole than many operating in the same circles. They’re not Kraut rock, despite their heavy dependence on synths and electronics, but not pure post-rock either. There’s a decided filmic feel to them (as is widely recognised from their acclaimed live show sondtracking ‘Silent Running’).
However, the differences between the headliners and their guests end there – they are equally loud, even employing their roadie (or so it seems, he’s announced as “Don Henley”…) for additional guitar volume on a couple of tunes.
Back to my quandry – the scattered setlists online conflict with my memory of their opening with ‘Heat Death Infinity Splitter.’ Certainly the intention is to showcase new album Wild Light, but it seems that the band only get through five or so of the tracks from it. Joe Shrewsbury is in chatty mode, apologising for their unfamiliarity with the new material (it sounds fine – as far as I can tell) and comparing the UK unfavourably with Australia before realising he’s insulting his audience, then suggesting that the Scots go for indeiendence, adding that “our lot are all vampires”.
Epic is the name of the game where instrumental post rock is concerned of course and never more than with 65daysofstatic. Every song is a potential set-closer with multiple variations in pace and tone before the inevitable epic finale (er, ‘Radio Protector’, probably) and explosion of noise fading down to nothingness. Which means that the end of the set is something of an anti-climax, though moreso when it becomes clear that there will be no encore (and, unless my mind and ears are playing me tricks, no ‘Retreat! Retreat!’, stymied as usual by the Liquid Room’s 10pm curfew.)
However, “epic” means that each tune has a climactic end, so the dying calls for “one more tune” are met with an unexpected quiet – the first prolonged period of silence of the night. Our ears may be grateful, but in our hearts and heads we want more.