I’ll always remember my first encounter with the music of Aberdeen-based experimental noise rock duo [ ] (pronounced “Wall”). A bitterly cold and blustery November evening saw bassist Alastair Crowe and drummer Chris Bissett assemble their equipment in a postage stamp-sized area at the side of the Tunnels’ stage, left to them by a slightly inconsiderate touring band. Moments later, it was evident that stage real-estate was not a concern high on the duo’s list as they unleashed a frantically visceral and kinetic sonic armada, bolstered by the sort of volume and energy typified by one of the band’s biggest influences; Providence noise rockers Lightning Bolt.
Formed in early 2011, [ ] share more than a modicum of passion for high-decibel music and tonal modification by deployment of a wide array of effects pedals. Indeed, for a fellow “gear-head” like myself, Alastair’s board provides a veritable banquet for these slightly envious eyes. A ZVex Mastotron fuzz, MoogerFooger and a host of phasers and chorus pedals help sculpt and colour the squalls of feedback and drone, impenetrable walls of noise, progressive driving passages and the more melodic and psychedelic elements of their sound, the latter reminiscent of the more spacey tendencies of English psychers Porcupine Tree. This rich diversity of tones is underpinned by an equally diverse arsenal of percussive rhythms and grooves. An impossibly energetic, precise and inventive drummer, Chris provides intense, pounding beats, peppered by polyrhythm and fast, flash and ferocious fills, recalling the technical prowess of Tool’s Danny Carey. Certainly, the title of the first track on their new six-track demo, Clockwork Horsemen aptly encapsulates the visual aspect of the band’s live performance- the relentless energy and bombast on display is indeed suggestive of a wildly freewheeling series of cogs and springs, which have formerly just been begging to be wound up and released.
The aforementioned demonstration, released earlier in June (available as a free download from the duo’s bandcamp and best enjoyed at high volume) is a series of six short snapshots which showcases the duo’s songwriting ability. Stop/start staccato, time changes and quiet/loud (or perhaps more fittingly: LOUD and slightly less loud) collide to create a varied and dynamic topography. It’s also a suitably lo-fi affair, recorded on a four-track, which sits well with the duo’s guerrilla persona and DIY approach. Though doubtlessly an impressive and pleasing listen, my only very minor gripe is that their energy, personality and presence does not always quite translate on record, and for me, [ ] are at their rapturous and ear-splittingly loud best during their frenetic live performances. That said, it definitely serves as a great introduction to the band. Thus far, 2012 has been an exciting year for [ ], with the release of the demo coupled with prolific appearances at Bile Yer Heid and Rodstock, further cementing the duo’s reputation as a thunderous and formidable tour-de-force. One cannot help but feel that even bigger things are in the pipeline for [ ], even in their fledgling years, and with their infectious charisma and work ethic, further successes would be richly deserved.