Laurel Halo, Sun Drums: The Kazimier, Liverpool
Hype star Laurel Halo brings the noise to the Kazimier. Unfortunately, that's about it.
Ba-dum, ba-dum, ba-dum.
Amid cascading washes of electrical dissonance, Laurel Halo's beat marches in time with our own heart. Ba-dum, ba-dum, ba-dum...
Like Leftfield's Phat Planet - the iconic musical accompaniment to that Guinness advert - there's a regularity married to a discernible sense of foreboding.
Tick follows tock follows tick follows tock... What infernal, unstoppable force is set to be unleashed upon us? The Kazimier stands stock still. Ready and waiting.
We wait, and we wait. And we wait some more. However, unlike the surfer who is rewarded for his patience by riding a tidal wave of stallions, our appetite remains unsatiated.
As Laurel swooshes her hair in a circular motion and twists her hand as if casting an elaborate spell, we endure half and hour of mediocre dense sheets of crackly noise. There's no ebb or flow, no contrasts of shade, hooks or deviating rhythms just middling crackles with the same incessant ba-dum, ba-dum, ba-dum...
Laurel Halo live at the Kazimier
Where on Quarantine, her latest outstanding record, the likes of Thaw is drenched in a light coating of thuds and a glossing of measured electricity, here all subtlety and fluidity is lost in a sludge of compressed noise. It's claustrophobic and exhausting.
Perhaps, having digested Quarantine, and cosied up to it's hypnotic, all-engulfing gurgling patter we were expecting something of a repeat - but here, there seems an attempt to transform into a bigger, clubbier beast - but instead there's simply nothing. We're clubbed into submission by boredom.
The live show is no ambient drone cycle which sucks you in, punches you in the belly while chewing up your mind and then spits you out the other side feeling all the better for it. Nor is there a slow, burning build which reaches the heights of punch-the-air euphoria. This is plateauing, arid noise where Laurel's distinctive vocals are reduced to mere cameos buried deep within the electrical vortex.
Just when we're slipping out of consciousness, our thoughts turning to unwashed dishes, taking out the recycling bin, Moon Duo's Kazimier date later this week, that tasty salmon devoured earlier, Prince Philip's urinary infection..., the distinctive flutter of Years kicks in.
'I will never see you again, you're mad because I will not leave you alone,' comes Laurel's cry as the clamour threatens to eat itself into submission - and for five minutes we're treated to some of the most beautiful music heard in a good while.
Sensual bass and dark atmospherics wrestle with Halo's treated voice - it's exactly why we were drawn to her in the first place - the contrast between nice and nasty. There's air, time to breathe and at last a gap in the suffocating sludge.
Yet, this proves a mere interval - almost acting as a crowd-teasing 'is this what you came to expect?' segue. Then it's back to the hissing wall of tinny noise and that all too familiar beat... Ba-dum, ba-dum, ba-dum and the heartburn kicks in once more.
Sun Drums live at the Kazimier
Earlier in the evening, Sun Drums delivered another impressive display to add to their growing live CV.
Much of their set drew from their eponymous debut EP, with Tom Coucher's pained 'Stop breathing down my neck,' refrain during Nocturnum carrying more menace in it's opening few bars than the rest of the evening managed in the following two and a half hours.
But it was the introduction of a new track midway through which stole the show - as Jacob Silkin riffed away through a barrage of white noise, Coucher and band-mate Sam Twidale hammered a succession of trance-heavy keys which offers a glimpse at a bolder, 'cleaner' direction.
It's the closest thing the group have delivered to a pop number - and the set was all the better for it, adding an immediacy, stripping away those multitude of layers. What's next is worthy of close inspection.
Sun Drums' Tom Cowcher live at the Kazimier
Pictures by P.R. Bartkiewicz