Wednesday, 23 June 2010

May Has Come and Gone

May was a super slap-up sonic sensation of a month as I finally got to see Deerhunter and Dungen. I love both these bands’ records SO MUCH, but have never got around to seeing them play live. It was good to be REALLY EXCITED about going to both gigs. I also saw The Brian Jonestown Massacre playing a sober, non-argumentative wiggy psych out at Shepherd's Bush Empire to a mosh-tastic crowd; Avi Buffalo making summertime shivers at Rough Trade; The Radio Dept playing at Bush Hall where they seemed to backtrack to being more jangly and less keyboard atmospherics-y and made me swoon when they played ‘1995’ even though it went a bit wrong; AND Prof. Brian Cox doing a sweary talk with equations and photos of the cosmos. Oh yes.

Deerhunter – 6 May 2010, Heaven

Deerhunter play Heaven – I haven't been there since back in like, er 2001, as I have always found it rather annoying, but this time we find a relatively squish-free haven near the front, craning our necks to peer up at the exceedingly high stage. Why is it that high? It's insane! The sound is apparently set up for big beaty club nights, and as a result some of the sonic subtlety of Deerhunter's shivery guitar creepiness is lost. Indeed at one point the thump of the bass drum near splits my head in twain. I'm all for a colosally thunderous noise that erases your very being, but nuance can be cool too you know. Still, sometimes the guitars sound like stained glass and roundabouts, and make me hold my breath with happiness.

The set begins with ‘Cover Me’ / ‘Agoraphobia’, their luxuriant somnolence making my heart swoon, although apparently this pairing is a regular set opener and thus not so exciting for Deerhunter old timers. ‘Rainwater Cassette Exchange’ gets all munched up and funky punked, ‘Little Kids’ sounds like the smell of summer lawns, but its ‘Nothing Ever Happened’ that drops jaws. The song splurges into a cocooning Krautrocking big fat drone-out, Joshua Fauver’s bass circling its way round a few notes over and over and overandoverforever whilst Bradford Cox scribbles six strings across the top. At one point he rubs his guitar against one of the big hanging speakers to the left of the stage, scraping new sounds out wherever he can. The song stretches out awhile, cradling us in its rhythm. I’m impressed by Moses Archuleta’s ability to keep drumming for the duration. Seeing the band live makes me appreciate the fact that they ARE a band, not just Bradford Cox and some blokes. This is hammered home when guitarist Lockett Pundt takes the lead to sing new song ‘Fountain Stairs’.

The lighting is amazing and makes you realise how much more can be done with a decent rig, rather than the usual red and blue lights turning on and off a bit. Maybe it would be nice to see the band a bit more as they’re mostly obscured by the atmospherics, but having the music emerge from these shadowy figures partly obscured by a gauze of pale light kind of adds to the foggy mystique of it all. There is very little band/audience interaction, possibly due to the fact that Deerhunter are towering high above us. At one point Cox ventures a little way down one of the staircases leading from the stage and slings an arm around a slightly bemused bouncer. Later he asks whether we’ve all voted and suggests that better music was made by a Britain opressed by Thatcher.

The majority of the set is taken from ‘Microcastle’, with a sprinkling of tunes from across the band’s output, including the ‘Cryptograms’ monster ‘Strange Lights’ as the feedback-laden closer. We also get more new songs, ‘Revival’ and ‘Helicopter’. Exciting! Despite the curious sound and odd stage, Deerhunter are mesmerising and powerful and until now the idea that this band had much in common with My Bloody Valentine never really rang true with me. I’ve listened to their records obsessively, but now Deerhunter make all new kinds of sense.