Monday, 22 March 2010

Spectrum / Hush Arbors / Voice Of The Seven Thunders, 17 March 2010, Luminaire

Ooh, we haven’t been to a Sonic Cathedral night for ages and we couldn’t have asked for a more perfect line-up to hymn our return to the congregation. Spectrum AND Hush Arbors, mmm delicious droney, psychy goodness. And who will the billed ‘very special guests’ be? As we queue to get in, a man behind us is explaining to his mate who Spectrum are – apparently the bloke out of Spectrum used to be in Spacemen 3 and he produced the new MGMT album. It becomes apparent that these people aren’t really here for Spectrum. They’re here for the ‘very special guests’ who are obviously MGMT, innit? The internet is alive with rumours: Sonic Boom produced their new album and they’re playing Heaven tomorrow…‘tis elementary. Ah, but is it?

Once we’re in, an audience with the Bishop of Shoegaze provides us with the exciting news that the guests are Voice Of The Seven Thunders. Woohoo! I am thrilled about this, as is Kate when she arrives and I impart the good news. Not sure how many other folks feel this way though. The band take the stage to a bemused audience silence and after main man Rick mentions that he’s never heard MGMT, the silence only gets stonier. This is a shame as Voice Of the Seven Thunders* are amazing; heavy duty, exotically rumbling psych. Rick’s earlier incarnation Voice Of The Seven Woods built mesmeric psych woobles around a single guitar sampled and looped (at least whenever I saw them/him), Voice Of The Seven Thunders is a full band, able to exercise ferocious multi-instrumental glory. Confusingly, Keith Hush Arbors is on guitar fleshing out the songs so that they’re powerfully grooving. There’s also a bass player, and a drummer who pummels out tribal rhythms that hammer up through my boots and kick the sound through my system. Rick plays his finger-skipping guitar squalls though a teeny tiny amp ‘the size of a rabbit hutch’. Actually, it’s more the size of a hamster cage, but it doesn’t matter, the music is a furious wiggy wig out, and for those who care to listen a fine introduction to the gloriously all-consuming new album (yes you, incredibly rude woman who shouted ‘Get off’).

Hush Arbors are one of my favourite bands at the moment and their set tonight tells me I am quite correct in feeling this way. They play country music that has had something wrong done to it, leaving it an electricity-spewing mutant, sometimes gently weeping, sometimes fiendishly howling. They are soothing, yet disturbed. Keith’s Neil Young-ish (possibly) voice provides melancholic lament over heart-wrenching guitar melody and then over in the corner, Leon has gone all mad professor with his big box of effects pedals, scrubbing and scraping and chucking his guitar around in the name of beautiful noise.

This is already the best gig I’ve been to for aages. In fact, I think I enjoy the two supports more than the main event in the end. Spectrum are, of course, stupendous, but the set is pretty much the one I’ve heard the last three times I’ve seen them: Mary, Che, How You Satisfy Me (this is my favourite tonight – sounding super groovy), When Tomorrow Hits, Set Me Free, War Sucks, plus a spectral version of Can’s Yoo Doo Right. The hits are all here in their noddy-head inducing, Radiophonic Workshop tinkering, viciously pulsating glory, but these sounds don’t quite reach the air-bending, mind-melting heights of the band’s gig at The Dome last year. S’all relative though. This is Spectrum after all. Tonight they have a raw, garagey feel to them, less wub (to use Kate’s term), more fuzz. In fact maybe too much fuzz, as Sonic makes numerous calls for towels onstage – not because he has a major perspiration problem (though it is pretty sweaty in here), but to stuff in the back of his rickety Vox amp.

He’s joined by a seated guitarist who, spookily, is called Jason; an excellently powerful drummer and, cripes! Guto of Super Furry Animals filling in on bass, as the usual bass-player is ill. He has a little book to tell him what to play. Spectrum bass lines are pretty minimal, but important – think of the way they run deliciously up and down the scale in ‘Revolution’, a small detail that helps make the song (obviously given an airing tonight).

Throughout the set, hope reigns eternal amongst the crowd that MGMT will make an appearance any…minute…now…Even the Luminaire has sent a photographer (who has 0 clue as to who Spectrum might be) to gather prized snaps of MGMT gracing its stage. Sonic leads his band to a fulcrum of noise on an epic ‘Suicide’ and then simply announces, ‘I’m going now’, like he’s off to beddy-byes. Guto leaves a decent interval before carefully arranging his bass against its amp and legging it through a gap in the stage backdrop curtains. Things are winding down… No they’re not! Here’s Sonic again bringing Guto back onstage and rearranging the bass PROPERLY and then demonstrating to the hapless Furry how to twiddle the knobs on his effects pedal to get the desired effect. There then follows a period during which a LOT of knobs are twiddled and the song goes all minimalist…and here are MGMT!! Not really. The song ends. The set ends. We go home very happy.

* ‘Named following the rare find of an 1870s tome full of lectures on the apocalypse’ according to the Rough Trade site. Your friendly Librarian of Rock says, "The full text of Voice of the Seven Thunders ; or Lectures on the Apocalypse by J. Lemuel Martin can be found online here:

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