Tess Parks & Anton Newcombe
July 18th 2015
Bringing their moody brand of rumbling psychedelia to a sweatbox in London, the duo of Anton Newcombe from Brian Jonestown Massacre and London-based Toronto songwriter Tess Parks’ collaborative debut bursts into life says Louder Than War’s Davey Brett.
By the time Tess Parks, Anton Newcombe and their fellow bandmates slink on to the stage at Oslo, the room is a sweatbox. After a brief pause for extra setting up and a quick dig at the shitty music playing over the PA, the band skulk into ‘Voyage de L’ame’ and from there on it’s difficult to feel anything less than engrossed. It takes until the end of the opening song for Anton to properly finish setting up and look out to the crowd, but once he’s locked in, the set fully takes flight.
For most of the gig it’s difficult to concentrate on anyone but Parks. Lingering in the middle of the stage with Anton slightly to the side, her movement is minimal as she laces the tracks with her gravelly croon. ‘Cocaine Cat’ does well to showcase hers as one of the more unique voices of the year as does the brooding ‘German Tangerine’. As the set progresses towards the middle however, attention turns to Anton.
In the midst of ‘Dig!’ and all the associated drugs and shenanigans, it’s easy to forget how truly masterful a guitar player he is. At times it’s a genuine pleasure to behold. Sometimes it looks as if he’s holding back, but as he loosens into a track, his frame softens and he almost becomes entranced. Tracks such as ‘Peace Defrost’, ‘German Tangerine’ and ‘Gone’ are given a new lease of life in the live setting as Newcombe threads them with his signature Jonestown guitar. Where tracks sounded slightly flat on the record, their component parts are given another dimension when performed in the flesh.
The latter effect is no more evident than in personal set highlight ‘October 2nd’. Rolling in with a thunderous but steady quake of a heartbeat on drums, with Parks rasping over the top and a rumbling guitar throughout, it’s the duo at their best. It’s music dripping with atmosphere, a moment to close your eyes to, letting the prowling rhythm wash over you. These bouts of atmosphere ebb and flow throughout and it’s a testament to the band as a whole for putting together such a sonically engrossing experience.
As the set nears its finale, the crowd thins ever so slightly and some songs fail to muster up the excitement of their predecessors but the band go out on an explosive high. A tambourine clad Parks sets up the beginning of ‘Mama’ before the whole band proceed to tear into it, thrashing out an extended version as if playing an especially energetic jam session.
Leaving the stage to applause, Parks and Newcombe deserve credit. Their album alone is impressive, matching a rare voice with a moody psychedelic backdrop, but played live it comes into its own resulting in an atmospheric and immersive show.