Tuesday, 20 January 2009
Live Review: Twisted Licks presents Deathray Trebuchay and Acoustic Ladyland @ Borderline 17/1/09
Twisted Licks has been in the business of innovative and eclectic line ups for a while now, championing everyone from The Brute Chorus to A. Human. Tonight though, promoter-in-chief Tamsin McClarty has outdone herself – matching the joyous rambunctious brilliance of festival staples, Deathray Trebuchay, with the avant-garde jazz-punk invention of Acoustic Ladyland. Borderline is beyond sold out and the crowd contains everything from bespectacled middle-aged jazz aficionados to infectiously excitable teenagers in day-glo – a reflection of the universal appeal of the bill.
Deathray Trebuchay are the warm up and within seconds Borderline’s basement walls are thick with condensation from their contagious energy. Latecomers descending the stairs break into grins, witnessing the band bouncing around each other on the stage in tank tops and sunglasses, wielding brass instruments. Their sound has developed from Balkan-eqsue gypsy punk reminiscent of Gogol Bordello into a more polished jazz-tinted and ska-tinged melting pot of influences. There is still the emphasis on solid musical structure and the odd whoop and shout thrown in which makes their set infinitely catchy – those in front of the stage are dancing with sincere abandon. But as noisy and haphazard as it sounds, it is clear that Deathray have mastered their craft in the course of recording their album and can afford relentless energy throughout that has band members on the brink of collapse at the end of each song.
Deathray are surely the ultimate warm up to Acoustic Ladyland – critically acclaimed and musically gifted as they are, Ladyland sometimes risk alienating your average gig-goer with artistic brilliance that verges on arcane. Tonight, however, Deathray are like the chart-hungry gateway to their enigmatic elders, and the audience couldn’t be better prepared for the aural assault that awaits. Ladyland appear newly assembled with guitarist Chris Sharkey putting in a mindblowing debut live performance, doing justice to the Hendrix-association of their name. Pete Wareham cuts a towering figure as their endearingly humble frontman, and couldn’t look more the part in a leather pork-pie hat as he squeals and honks and seduces with luxuriously shifting textures on tenor sax. Sebastian Rochford, the drummer renowned for his time with Babyshambles and the Mercury-nominated Polar Bear, and to the lesser-musically-concerned for his enormous wonky afro, looks totally unperturbed as he smashes and rattles his way through what we are told is mostly new material.
Their sound is enervated to the point of chaotic, much like Melt Banana or, and they are capable of shifting gears and executing such furious pace that there are points where, for their calm exteriors, the music seems implosive, were it not for bassist Ruth Goller sonically underpinning everything with unshakeable precision.
Acoustic Ladyland are a marvel – there is the sincere sensation of having witnessed a kind of underappreciated genius after one of their gigs. They have an album, ‘Living With The Tiger’, due for release in the coming months, but from tonight’s performance their restless jazz-punk is bared as something that it is surely uniquely possible to appreciate live. On record, they are perhaps destined to stay the critics’ darlings and elude the mass. Yet in the flesh, there can be no disputing that Acoustic Ladyland are universally enchanting.