Lower Dens, Novo Line, Swimming Lessons – Brudenell Social Club – 11/12/12

Another night of Sonic loveliness at the Brudenell with Baltimores ‘Lower Dens’ promoting their excellent LP ‘Nootropics’ and Leeds own ‘Swimming Lessons’ showing that it’s not just Hooky who can use a Bass as a lead guitar. ‘Novo Line’ did a very un-Oxes like set of dance music to video montage whilst dressed in a Whitney Houston tour T-shirt …….Sledge and I met Mark down there who offered to write this one up……

A freezing cold Tuesday night in December after the students have gone home for xmas is about as un-rock n’roll as you can have.  Which is fair play, as tonight really wasn’t rock n’roll either.  In front of a select / discerning / small (delete as appropriate) crowd, we were treated to two bands of wallflowers performing art pop either side of some oddball electronica.

The opening act are local lads Swimming Lessons, serving up some very fine woozy dream-pop, with possibly the most echo-laden vocals ever.  Their songs either washed around the ears of the audience, or were propelled along by a driving drumbeat that wouldn’t have been out of place in some of the more out-there bands coming from West Germany in the early 1970s.  The projections behind the band emphasised this with long, drawn out shots of motorways and lampposts speeding by.

There were high hopes for tour support Novo Line, him being ex of Oxes; a band whose blend of complex instrumental weirdness and short men scaring the audience is the stuff of legend.  However, the new, electronic direction was rather disappointing.  Neither particularly danceable (though a couple of chaps did their best) nor boldly experimental, Novo Line’s music was pleasantly chin-stroking, but nothing more.  The accompanying visuals could have been commenting on the essential hollowness of consumer capitalism and the increasing immediacy of nostalgia…or they could have been some pictures of stuff that was cool.  Watching a bloke fiddle about with boxes with loads of leads sticking out of them isn’t much of a live experience.

But then, Lower Dens aren’t much of one either.  They just stand there, looking faintly embarrassed, no banter, no grand gestures.  Letting the music do the talking – even if it’s music as good as this – is often cover for not having any stage presence.  The songs are either quite short & end abruptly, or quite long and droney, flowing ever onwards like a river of fuzz & distortion with Jana Hunter’s rather forlorn voice bobbing about on top of it.  The films going on around them looked reminiscent of Bridget Riley’s Op-Art, which fits with Lower Dens’ music.  Individually, each piece is quite lovely, and when viewed overall they’re pretty impressive; but the downside is that they are very much the same, and staring at it for too long can give you a massive headache.  Quite possibly they’re still there, locked into an infinite groove…

There; 400 words and I didn’t mention shoegaze, krautrock or Spacemen 3.  Quite hard, I can tell you.

Mark Pomroy

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