LIVE: Iceage @ Gorilla | 09.09.18
WORDS BY PATRICK PRESTON
The stuffy, drab-skied Sunday evening that backdrops this leg of Manchester Psych Fest rather lends itself to the bleaker, more tense strains of tonight’s headliners, elusive Danish art-punks Iceage. Fittingly, disaffected art students and older punk musos mill around Gorilla’s square, brick-lined room, mulling over drinks and chatting animatedly, until an eerie silence falls overhead. Billowing out onto the stage then comes the spectral Nordic figures of Copenhagen-based collective Josiah Konder, whose presumed eponymous frontman starts by teasing a soft balladry on an acoustic guitar. The band gradually push into dark, swirling noir, formed by harmonised choral singing, dynamic stop-start percussion and elaborate storytelling, while grand, sweeping piano flourishes and snaking distorted guitar add layers of gritty texture. When not steering this with a Cave-esque croon, Josiah Konder wildly conducts his band’s proceedings with his hands, lending some urgency to stretches of explosive chamber-pop, but the simplistic, back-and-forth structures become somewhat meandering after just a handful. Steady applause follows each number, but the audience remains relatively muted until the pre-headliner gap builds into feverish excitement. The crowd swells to three times its size; a small-statured girl takes a Snapchat picture of the empty stage and tags the Iceage account, seemingly excited to share the evening with her myriad of post-punk-leaning contemporaries.
Armed with the additional instrumentation that defined the band’s sound on their excellent 2018 release ‘Beyondless’, Iceage take to the stage, and after a quick few hellos, triumphantly launch into the album’s high-octane opener, ‘Hurrah’. Vocalist Elias Rønnenfelt contrasts his languid drawl with a Libertine-esque swagger, while the band play with a loose, garage-rock feel, kept in line by the songs’ blood-pumping energy. Well-received single ‘Pain Killer’ – minus featured artist Sky Ferreira – follows, eliciting a roar of recognition from the room, but the brassy wail that makes up the song’s main instrumental thrust can’t help but feel a little thin in a live environment. The menacing crawl of ‘Under the Sun’ – which threads needling violin and an anguished vocal through a punishing staccato beatdown – and ‘Plead the Fifth’’s morose, guitar-driven march cap off a string of hits from the band’s latest record. Until the unveiling of older noise-punk stormer ‘Morals’ triggers a small moshpit, which gradually expands towards the walls before petering out. Basking in the chaos, a rhythmic guitar noise grows faster and faster, before bursting into the frantic cowpunk of track ‘The Lord’s Favourite’.
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As the night goes on, ‘Beyondless’ is further repped by the skeezy Broadway stylings of ‘Showtime’, whose misery-tinged cabaret rock suitably fits the venue’s rousing, sweaty atmosphere. As well as ‘The Day the Music Dies’ noise rock stomp and the rattly, doom-laden shoegaze of the title track, with a small pool of pumping fists keeping momentum throughout. Elsewhere, the washy, melancholic soundscapes of ‘Take It All’ and ‘Catch It’ find themselves fading into aimless, flickering sax and plucked violin, riding out any grooves until they leave a formless, slow-burning ambience, and highlight the band’s capabilities for more abstract sonic depths. Snapping back into life for a final push, old-school track ‘White Rune’ breaks with a claustrophobic, choppy guitar rhythm – a welcome snap of energy that propels the set towards a fiery close, proving both the group’s versatility and onstage hunger.
Under the Sun
Plead the Fifth
The Lord’s Favourite
Thieves Like Us
The Day The Music Dies
Take It All