Friday, November 11, 2011

Wild Beasts / Braids @ HMV Institute Thursday 10th November

Tonight’s review is brought to you by the words ‘texture’ and ‘soundscape’. Everytime I mention one of these words you’re heartily encouraged to down a shot of Absinthe. TEXTURE! SOUNDSCAPE! TEXTURETEXTURETEXTURETEXTURE! There, now isn’t that better, blurrier I bet, but better.

First up Braids, who wove a multi-textured soundscape (yes you’re right, I’m just being silly now) with lovely echoes of late 80’s bedroom romantics Cocteau Twins. Possibly the only Canadians who aren’t part of the sprawling Broken Social Scene collective they take dreamy electronica to a whole new level with each member of the band seemingly having their own bit of knob twiddling kit to hand to twist and mutate music or vocals into wonderful new sounds. Amongst all this slightly trippy sonic experimentation lead vocalist Raphaelle Standell-Preston goes all Bjork on our ass, veering from an ickle girl lost quiet voice to a RUDDY LOUD ONE. It’s all quite beautiful, a little like a fucked up fairytale fact if Disney ever decided to hook up with David Lynch I reckon Braids would be a shoe-in for the music. Set highlight was a glorious track called Glass Deers, a mere 8 minutes long it begins with minimalistic pips (a little like an elongated engaged tone on a telephone) before building into a glittery crystalline landscape that’s strangely interrupted by Raphaelle informing us in her best little girl voice that’s she’s “fucked up”. Then she goes a bit nuts (shades of Bjork again) before reverting back to that sweet innocence of hers. Fan-frickin-tastic.

Now three albums into their career Wild Beasts are finally getting more of the mass appreciation that their particular breed of atmospheric pastoral pop so richly deserves. Notable for, amongst other things, the testicles in a vice (don’t try it me) falsetto vocals of Hayden Thomas they’ve quietly crafted some stunningly beautiful tracks peaking with one of this year’s best singles Bed Of Nails. Proper lush. With the room rammed to capacity (seriously, people were hanging off the ceiling) a retina scorching blast of white light accompanied the band’s entry as they kicked off proceedings with that very song. Not even a bit of feedback could dent the beauty of this track, a twisted love song with some truly emotastic lyrics “Ink up the wound for a crude tattoo”, “I want my lips to blister when we kiss”...see what I mean? That’s kind of the appeal of the Beasts, perhaps inspired by the poets of their native Lake District (old Wordsworth, Coleridge and chums) they bring a touch of classical romanticism to the dirty world of pop that’s often more concerned with grinding its....eurghhh...sweaty crotch in your face. There’s a delicacy and subtleness to the whole performance that makes it a pretty intimate affair too, even with a moist sold out crowd rubbing up against you.

Like I say it’s taken a while for the world to catch up with Wild Beasts, a fact that Hayden duly noted early in the set. The last time they played Birmingham (with Adele as support!) the sort of audience in attendance tonight would have been, in his own words “impossible”. Fresh from two months overseas they seemed pretty blown away by this evening’s reception. Hayden even admitted that he found Birmingham “a romantic place...seriously...I’m not taking the piss!” Wow. Never heard Brum called romantic before. Still, we do have more canals than Venice so maybe he’s onto something? Shall I compare thee to a Summer Row? Can I take you up the Outer Circle? Hmmmm...maybe not.

Anyway, back to the music and the band took tonight as an opportunity to revisit some of their earlier stuff as well as tracks from this year’s breakthrough album, Smother. This arrangement saw vocal duties shared pretty equally between Hayden and Tom Fleming, who are kind of chalk and cheese. Whereas Hayden has that angelic falsetto Tom’s more of a gruffer Beast. It’s a rather marvellous contrast though adding (yep, get ready with the Absinthe again) a real texture and depth to it all, particularly effective tonight on early single Devil’s Crayon form the band’s first release 2008’s Limbo, Panto. New single Reach A Bit Further melded a bit of a Tears For Fears Mad World beat with a vocal worthy of Jamie from The Irrepressibles (seriously if you’ve not heard this band do yourself a favour and check them out) and was so beautiful you could kind of forgive the slightly dodgy “Lewd, crude, rude” line. Come, come now boys would what would Wordsworth say eh? A meaty run through Hooting and Howling (or maybe Hooting and Growling given Hayden’s throaty roars during the track) raised the biggest cheer of the night, prompting some spontaneous clapping along from the bewitched capacity crowd. The encore and night culminated, appropriately enough, with End Come Too Soon which, despite extending beyond its 8 minute album version, pretty much summed up the mood of the crowd.

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