Tonight’s promoter, Xavier, doubles as the opening act, Twenty Three Hanging Trees. He’s hunched over his guitar making a warping wall-of-sound belch forth with the use of heavy reverb and loops. The venue’s mural of an astronaut floats behind his head and this only increases the whole other-worldly appeal of it. Above him hangs a dead disco ball and before him the audience sits cross-legged reverentially rocking back and forth in time with the warping guitar. He reaches across to pick up two musical boxes, in turn, which he carefully places on his pick-ups and a steady, tinkling tune is heard over the reverb as he winds them. It’s all a little too cosmic and somewhat peculiar, but there is a certain magic within his music.
Urbantramper & 10,000 Times Glorious, candidates for the most pretentious bandname ever, seem at first to be the very definition of “twee” but have the substance to back it all up. The lead-singer, the aforementioned Urbantramper, resembles a vicar with his shirt done up beneath his chin but he displays an obvious talent for the guitar, confidently plucking out simple, catchy folk rhythms. Sitting by his side, gazing up at him, is Eli D on tambourine and xylophone. Her harmonies are simply beautiful tonight and along with keyboardist George’s punchy vocal style they provide excellent back-up. They appear to be suffering a little from nerves but it doesn’t show in the music and their strong, upbeat songs are well-received by the sparse crowd.
By the time The Drift take the stage the venue is by no means at capacity but with many still sitting it appears fuller and quite a fair turn-out for a Wednesday night. After some early technical problems with the sound, the band begin recreating their complex mix of ambient jazz, gentle post-rock and dub with a surprising level of consistency.
Jeff Jacobs is the focal point raising his battered-looking trumpet to slowly eek out a resplendent blare that dips and rises gently. Across from him, Danny Grody ducks up and down as his guitar oozes a warm, melodious echoed arrangement. Intermittently he turns to his keyboard to mimic the trumpet but it’s a less harsh, lusher sound that emerges. Meanwhile, Safa Shokrai, bearded and bespectacled, stands in the background working his enormous upright bass with nimble fingers, occasionally whipping out a bow to produce longer notes. All the while his thick, black specs slip slowly down his face only to be swept back into place when the music allows him time to. Finally, we have Rich Douthit on drums, disciplined enough not to overuse his kit, employing an uplifting beat before dropping out to produce an ambient wash of cymbals.
Together, the band and their music are simply awesome. They kick off with ‘If Wishes Were Like Horses’ with it’s slow, steady, “come hither” teasing, follow through into ‘Uncanny Valley’, all jazzy trumpet, bright and sharp, with a pulsing afrobeat and rich dub wash before giving us all a glorious rendition of the dramatic ‘Land’s End’. As their set comes to an end they seem happy to take a shouted request and play a stunning track from an earlier EP (I missed the track title) that includes a stunning array of percussive tricks including some outstanding rim-scrapes which involves dragging the drumstick over the ridges at the centre of the cymbal.
The only thing missing tonight is a drop-screen light show and even that might even have ended up intruding on the purity of the music. The Drift are off to continue their mad dash around the dives of Europe whilst we lucky few are tonight more than grateful for their insanity.
Photo courtesy of Rich E
This review originally appeared on Sonic Dice and TLOBF