London, 28th October
Despite its presence below what can only be described as a yuppie bar, CAMP Basement can only be described as “scuzzy”, with its bare-bones appearance and man standing on the bar fixing the lights. And what better atmosphere for the new Artrocker-backed riff rock night New Heavy Sounds, whose lineup brandished the formidable combination of XM-3a, Gum Takes Tooth, and Tweak Bird all placed upon the small and rickety stage half an hour later than planned.
First up were XM-3a, an unlikely name for a band that are nigh-on impossible to find of the internet, and who produce a sound that feels like the audience is witnessing a re-enactment of the moment 60s garage rock invented heavy metal. Their rambling songs feel like musical stream-of-consciousness soliloquies, tethered to reality and unpretentiousness by the chord progressions of a farfista organ and the solid rock n roll drums, allowing the guitars and bass to experiment, dipping their toes into rock, country, soul, rock and psychedelia, incorporating some impressive effects pedals and some even more impressive musicianship. All this was fronted by a true showman of a singer, who conducted the evening with his entire heart, a soul-rock showman and shaman. As an act, they were hard to initially get hooked by due to the unconventional edges to their approach, but once their mesmeric rock charm takes hold, their set didn’t become a set so much as a journey around the fringes of something truly fascinating, their songs turning into ten-minute slabs of hypnotic yet unpretentious music that reached moments of exhilaration. XM-3a may be elusive, but by no means a live act to pass without taking a look and a listen.
The next band in the venue as it both heated and filled up was the experimental electro twosome, Gum Takes Tooth. Taking to the stage with faces covered and touting equipment consisting of a drumkit and what looked like a volcanic eruption in a small mixing desk. They then proceeded to play a set that held me captivated by its sheer strangeness. Eschewing any sense of convention, they instead construct what appears to be a largely improvised set of rabid electronic noise-bending in the form of screeches and roars of feedback and percussion, and pounding, rattling drums that border on hardcore/metal, whereas the electronics and the stage presence felt reminiscent of a rave DJ. As much as the visceral strangeness of the act was indeed interesting, and the musical ideas on a new and unique level, however it simply did not suit the night. Many of the compositions went on for too long and simply did not feel finished. I would say in their defence that if the set had been in the context of an experimental music night or a more electronic lineup in general, it would have been a satisfying set, but as it was, they simply came across as a novelty that wore thin.
In order to rectify the night, Tweak Bird would have needed to be made of something rather special. And thankfully, indeed they were. Bringing to the basement setting an unfeasibly loud yet mesmeric and enjoyable sound driven by the tumbling and stormy drums, hit home by Sabbath-esque guitars and ornamented by feral saxophone melodies and the core duo’s surreal high-pitched twin vocalisations. Serpentine riffs coiled around periodically vicious drums, and the entire set was a force of incredible proportions. Their fascinating, dreamlike sound is otherworldly yet packs a truly mean punch, delivered with a real passion and enjoyment on the part of band and audience. The set was a little rickety in places, especially concerning the low volume of the saxophonist’s microphone, however the set as a whole became not just a set, but in a way almost a celebration. The band at one point perched an umbrella on the highest-placed cymbal, but of course this was knocked down and thrown around the heaving audience in the manner of a beach ball at a festival. Each member found their niche in the music, allowing it to not just flow but rush torrentially from their instruments. In the vein of a band with experimental leanings, they extended some tracks into solos and improvisations, but unlike Gum Takes Tooth they felt far more organised and what gave them true charisma on stage on top of an assured musical ability was their sense of humour and fun. Despite the extensions and rambling nature of many songs, they remained in a recognisable and enjoyable format, from the guitar driven ‘A Future’ to the mystic ‘A Sun/Ahh Ahh’. Towards the end, just as the guitarist started to descend into indulgent effects experimentation, the drummer jolted him back to reality for one last piledriving assault of riffs.
Although this was by no means the most organised show I have ever attended, I would happily mark Tweak Bird down as a band to keep an eye on, as their unique brand of twisted and bold psych-rock holds its own not only groomed and alluring on CD, but unleashed and raw in a live setting. All in all, a successful night.
Author: Katie H-Halinski
Photos: Jake Richards