Always with one ear finely tuned to the esoteric rumblings of the underground, we sent Voodoo regular Craigus Barry to review Debasement’s night at the Flapper and Firkin ahead of their zine launch party on the 29th April.
The evening begins with SHA ABBAS, a chap I have played with before as it happens, although he was accompanied by a viola player last time, the two created a furious pecking and scratching racket of anything but notes. This time, the idiosyncratic young saxophonist is using just the reed / mouthpiece to produce bird song, avian mating calls, gul sequels, all interjected with parps and toots! He is seemingly shooting provocative projectiles at the audience, I observe the results painted ambiguously on all faces present, in this dimly lit bunker.
Abstract air sculptures carved with painstaking precision to be as alien script on a cave wall and delivered with, I gather, some humour, he garbles the sound of bong water (not the band!,) as the first group of the evening , Beyond The Summit, set up to the sides of him, in gelled lit anticipation. A hum omits from the bass, SHA ABBAS changes tack, replacing the mouthpiece and playing some damn right soulful notes, it sounds like the tranquil parts of Larks Tongue In Aspic (King Crimson)! He leaves the stage and the band hit straight into a hypnotic delicate groove. It is quite an entrance, all things considered.
Conjuring up a bit of a red herring, Beyond The Summit progress to sound like minimalist post rock, but within this lengthy groove stirs something truly animistic which pounces at the end in a focused workout from the drums! After a brief introduction and thanking SHA ABBAS concluding, “I’ve honestly never seen anything quite like that before”, they launch full pelt into an exercise of Fripp sixths by numbers mixed with tenacious tentacles of a videogame 8 bit jittery portal opening, mathematical punctuation notwithstanding.
Far from a whinnying one trick-pony on the coat tails of a bandwagon jumping the post rock post, the drummer stretches his legs further afield, and you witness some seriously accomplished technique seethe through the precisely matched rhythm section, with the bass snaking thusly through the gaps of each punch. Nods to Osrics and Tool in equal measure, but confidently bringing something of their own ilk to the proceedings. My only criticism is a cosmetic one: when this guitarist uses delays, sometimes the more subtle or immediate ideas are lost in a swirl of disorientation. That maybe intended, but I could see it being a hindrance.
Lambhorn are refreshing: not unlike a slow come up on a strange otherworldly substance, they become a welcome gear change for this night: (looking back upon hastily sketched notes,) scintillating, shimmering layers of single coil and humbucker guitars offset and compliment each other, whilst an insistent shifting rhythm petals outwards from oceanic punctuation as this opening piece ascends into looped celestial bliss it falls back downwards into a more erratic immediacy before the intricacies solidify to become a brute fist. As the set progresses sometimes guitars become polychords, picking out parts of the canvas, whilst bass performs question and answer exercises in melodic restraint over some benign polyrhythms.
Exuding optimism they limbo between straight and narrow way points of texture and breadth – threatening to lie somewhere between pavement and post punk. At other times. I’m hearing elements of later day mathrock nutniks Murder Of Rosa Luxembourg , maybe because of the key and simple note choice it puts me in mind of the ’Farming As Chinese’ intro, albeit with a cavern of post rock glimmering.
“This songs about surfing” is the introduction to the penultimate track: with arpeggiator like tapping and slow pentatonic meandering it certainly is conjuring images of oscillating waves freely cascading across a azure horizon line. The simplicity of this piece unfolds into a mysterious mantra to the deep, however nestling beneath the top sheen, there lies a drummer with restraint and panache and suddenly you realize the main drive of this outfit is the grooves and power play. Undulating, restrained waves that snap forward and finally break.
Finally we have Leeds based Zeitgeist : Starting off seemingly like a free form ivory-tinkling jazz trio, I notice lurking at the back is a projectionist who streams a stylized single word “Zeitgeist” as the piano picks out crafty cadence, alpha glyphs split into individual emerald geometric shapes and twitch and shift with the music, the music itself; no longer playing inside a box. At the forefront of the band is keyboardist Aleks Podraza, but it is a night of solid rhythm sections it would seem, as he builds upon a strong foundation of low rumbles (Sam Quintana) and snazzy syncopation of the kit (Tom Higham). Laterly I am drawn into the ever evolving topography of dynamics complemented by every new cycle of increasingly progressive projections.
The spell is broken briefly, by an Indian Tambura sample, it’s drone hypnotically sets a new tonal flavour imbued with foreboding shamanistic twist. -The dexterity of the nimble keyboard players fingers on his right hand, are but a blur of spindly chaos to my eyes now, threatening to rip each second apart into a component space of micro composition, like how many half notes can you cram into a bar exactly? Watch this guy and see. Last track of the three(? I don’t know how long this occurred for, see previous sentence,) is a lengthy work of somewhat Georgian arpeggios. I admit I was somewhat flabbergasted: the syncopation was far beyond anything I have tried to write about, mathematically beyond my comprehension, I tend to listen for tunes, myself, thus this band may be a bit too clever for their own good.
I also concede that perhaps I was lacking in voracious vocabulary of free jazz references been a bit wet behind the ears in this discipline to craft any further words. This should not put the avid reader and concert goer off tho, as they are a site behold when in full flow, a slow burner for sure, but accompanied by projections, part of the charm is losing yourself in the grooves and tapestry. A great little night, carrying on the firm tradition of The Flapper serving up some inspired off kilter, somewhat idiosyncratic at times, slices of progressive oddity. I look forward to seeing what other gems these young promoters unearth for us in the future having mined a rich seam tonight!
Words by Craigus Barry (http://swallowthemind.tumblr.com/)