Superuho Festival : Shellac/Liars/Blanck Mass : Live Review
Super Uho festival is a pretty stunning affair.
Every year a collection of the best unconventional bands in the world are collated together to play avenue perched on a craggy cliff above Primostin – one of those typically beautiful Croatian seaside towns – all splintered rocks, expensive boats and the glugging Adriatic. It’s warm all night and the atmosphere is good as the diverse bands play.
Shellac are much loved here at LTW and it’s great to see them out touring a lot more.
Forever honing their sound to perfection the band are still the greatest trio on the planet and playing to all the strengths of that form. Each instrument takes lead from Steve Albini’s guitar that switches from shrapnel rhythm to neo prog guitar lines to those hypnotic off kilter timing chugs he does so well, Bob Weston’s bass is iconically heavy – gnarled and grinding before switching to driving – he’s one of the best bass players out there – understanding the power of economy but knowing when to lash out. The third corner of the triangle is Todd Trainor, whose astonishing drums are so utterly distinctive that they almost single handily define the band.
Trainor’s lanky frame, as he toys with the kit, is something to behold and his rhythms and understanding of tension and release are paramount to the band’s sound. Not often noted are Albini’s lyrical jewels and story telling songs that grab snippets of time and compress them into a telling moment of narrative. The bwhole Shellac experience is still so compelling and their defiance of the rock norm and understanding of sound are still inspiring, stripping the stage of trad accoutrements they shift the monitors to the back of the stage, they turn down live because their volume although still fairly loud is not a battering ram, they deconstruct song structure and yet still have a huge power, they turn instrumentation inside out and yet still function within rock. At any moment in time they could probably go and be wildly popular but are happy to avoid the circus by being just beyond the idiot radar.
Tonight there are three new songs in the set – one of them is the fastest thing I’ve heard them do and features an almost hardcore slicing, shrapnel guitar thing from Albini whilst the other, which they tell me, was provisionally called 68 and has a new title is a loping and hypnotic piece. The set ending End Of Radio is now stretched out for 15 minutes with that cyclical and heavy bass riff and Steve Albini quoting song lyrics as he plays the part of the last broadcaster on earth – he even sings half of the Sweet’s classic Ballroom Blitz turning he song inside out for dark inspiration.
Liars are constantly morphing and their current version, built around core member Angus Andrew, is a three piece with the singer decked out fetchingly in wedding dress flailing around the stage toying with the effects pedals for his vocals and a table of small and strange sounding boxes as the two droogs behind him create a collision between post punk adventure and the uber mensch death disco of electronica.
Over the years the band seemed to have become more lunatic and theoretical and tonight’s spellbinding show has elements of Virgin Prunes about it. Whether it’s intentional or not is hard to gauge but there is a real sense of that thousand yard stare madness and opening the pandora’s box daredevil creativity going on.
The band’s commitment heavy dance undertow keeps things in place and the stomping beats nailed everything down leaving space for the off kilter guitar lines and strange effects and the frontman’s idiosyncratic vocal lines.
Blanck Mass is the one man electronic project from Fuck Buttons Benjamin John Power taking a busmens holiday from the drone band to create these visceral and dark landscapes. The scope and peer of electronics is throughly examined here and the music which is often built on these thrilling tribal beat patterns is dark and epic and builds up to terrifying and hypnotic climaxes.
You can hear it all in the mix – there is the big landscapes of post rock – those limitless terrains of Mogwai and Slint, or delving further back Ennio Morricone or the dark brooding end of electronic music – that melancholic dark skies that sometimes only machines can recreate as well as the menacing power of drone rock – its all in the mix for a captivating hour of dark pleasure.
Since we last saw Belgrade’s Straight Mickey and The Boys at MENT festival in Ljubljana the band have just kept honing down their brilliance. With the same kind of full exploration of the possibilities of the trio like Shellac that also combine that spindly stripped down everyone plays lead thing but with an added psychedelic touch. They are also have the toughness of a muscular bar band but with an added sense of adventure – kinda like Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. They really are an excellent band and the music pulls you in with its shape shifting tempos and its an adrenaline rush catching them live.