LIVE: SNAPPED ANKLES @ THE DEAF INSTITUTE
WORDS: PATRICK PRESTON
Not even some minor guest list issues could break my resolve to see one of the country’s most interesting new psych/punk/whatever else bands, who tonight kick off their first proper country-wide tour in Manchester’s historic Deaf Institute. The large upstairs gig room – the fullest I’ve ever seen it – throbs with feverish anticipation, with a smattering of arty students and balding musos visibly excited to witness some new blood on the scene.
The hip-hop pulsing over the PA grips a woman stood near me so intensely that she carves out her own personal zone of non-stop animated dancing, leaving me wondering if she’ll have enough energy by the time the band are on; this turns out to be a taller order than expected, as twenty minutes pass beyond their listed set time (partly due to their recording of a BBC Radio 6 live session just beforehand). It’s no matter though, as, from the sheer complexity of the kitted-out stage setup, it’s clear that this crowd can appreciate the meticulous tinkering and technicality that goes into such performances.
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Almost instantaneously, a swathe of creepy business suit-clad figures with shaggy, monster-like headgear appear onstage and summon an eerie green light. The audience buzzes with a cheer, unsure of what to make of them, but a quiet yet hurried drumbeat steers them ever forwards, while snatches of warped synth noise fly threateningly overhead and fractured yelps grow in intensity. All of this builds to the explosive krautrock fury of new album highlight Tailpipe, which juggles frantically-thick bass sounds with whizzing stabs of synth; the blocky, stop-start space punk of Drink and Glide and clattering jerkiness of Pestisound (Moving Out) maintain this maniacal energy, evolving in complexity and adding accoutrements to their skeletal frames.
Mononymous (like the entire band) vocalist Austin’s authoritative, doom-laden proclamations throttle the crowd’s attention between tracks, amid scattered percussion and busy instrumental quirks. The garbled electronics of Letter from Hampi Mountain live up to its name with winding, exploratory noise over an addictively fun beat, but only prove how insurmountably hard it is to replicate the extensively detailed album recordings.
Indeed, some essential flourishes seem to be lost in the murky haze, drowned out by the thumping low-end percussion mixing; this doesn’t limit any joy to be found in previous album hits I Want My Minutes Back and Hanging with the Moon, however, which embody a slightly less polished, but more anthemic form of the group’s jittery musicianship.
Despite bringing it back around with new record Stunning Luxury’s lead single Rechargeable, which cranks up its tempo in impassioned bursts, the band do let slip the odd moment of mumbling lifelessness – no doubt attributable to pesky first-show-of-first-proper-tour nerves. After another slew of numbers skirting grungy psychedelia and unpredictable experimentalism – replete with a devastatingly cool vintage organ sound – the group cycle through an unintelligible roll-call, but this couldn’t matter less to the audience, who bubble over into a rapturous frenzy. “We’ve worked so hard to get out of London,” Austin implores at one point, clearly appreciative of their lively Northern reception.