The twenty-second instalment of Manchester-based promoter Astral Elevator’s psyche nights saw them team up with Wrong Way Records to showcase five bands from their roster from around the UK and Ireland in the intimate setting of Aatma. As our bug-eyed over-enthusiastic compere repeatedly reminded us, this was five headline bands on one bill.
First up are Control Of The Going, the local heroes on the line-up. After a brief soundcheck in front of us, they launch into tracks from their forthcoming debut album that should be with us by the end of the year. They have sound issues throughout no more so than on opening track Family where its thrilling rock and roll snowball effect is muted somewhat by six instruments bleeding into one. It’s testament to how far they’ve come that they hold it together. Recent single She is a great in point for anyone new to them, a sprawling ambitious song that turns itself inside out and envelops you, the three-pronged guitar attack creating a swirling whirlpool of sound that lifts you up. A new song Sell Yourself has a similar delicious delirious effect despite the sound problems – by this point they’ve shrugged their shoulders and make the best of it. They finish with Wild Flower, one of their earliest tracks they released, but which is now a million miles away from its genesis. They’ve got a fair crowd gathered already and it’s a real shame that they didn’t get the bigger audience that their 7.15 stage time prevented, because they’re a band unquestionably on the rise.
Next up are Essex’s Muertos although they are a million miles away from the Northern stereotype of their home county. Their set is eight songs of a powerful hit and run dual vocaled onslaught interspersed with shards of crisp and delicious melodies that jump out at you. Marc and DeAnna share vocal responsibilities, either one taking lead or sharing them, to great effect with the whole thing being driven along by Tom’s primal drums that create a massive wall of sound around which the other two can draw their guitar and bass patterns. Forthcoming single Spin is one of the stand out tracks as are their debut single Black Box which finishes off the set and the unreleased Little Rabbit Insane.
Third up are Scotland’s The Valkarys and they slow things down a bit. Not psyche as you’d traditionally view it as they eschew loud guitars in favour of melody and again a dual female / male vocal approach that makes them stand out. Sarah plays drums standing up and sings from the back with Scott up front on guitar so visually they’re very different even before they start playing opening track Xylophobia off their last full LP (Just Like) Flying With God. Their soothing songs provide a mid-gig comedown, there’s a tenderness to the likes of Fistful Of Dollars and the final track Can’t Win For Losing that the gathered crowd very much appreciate.
Nothing could prepare us for Deja Vega though. No disrespect to any of the other bands on the bill, they’re currently in a different stratosphere, let alone a different league, not just to them, but to 99.9% of bands around. With such meagre tools as just drum, bass, guitar and a stack of effects pedals, they obliterate the lingering sound problems like some minor irritant buzzing around their heads. There’s an absolutely undeniable intuition at play between the three of them, their shows never sound the same, because they’re not, unafraid to improvise, to trust the instincts of the other two unquestionably and to let go at just the right moment as one. Telephone Voice and Eyes Of Steel threaten to overwhelm us and bring the building crashing down such is the raw undiluted power that they create, whilst Mr Powder demonstrates their ability to drop things down in the blink of an eye into an unforgettable earworm riff. They drop the psyche and go disco on Stalker, but it’s a three-am vodka or narcotics fuelled club where the walls are closing in.
There’s a new untitled song that they only wrote on Tuesday, remarkable for a band that should be focused on the mixing of their debut album, but it takes them off in another very different dark direction and then turns volte face and slams us in the face. An urgent penetrative Pentagrams, all lightning strikes of razor-sharp bass, pummelling, punching drums and chain saw guitars explodes into a belligerent ram raid of a chorus. But they save the best for last. The Test is an eleven minute journey through their creative mindset, improvised for the last half. Jack looking like a man possessed as he creates lyrics as he goes along with a demonic glazed look in his eyes that scares us, beer flies everywhere as he ends up amongst the moshing horde that have coined a call and response DEJA / VEGA chant whilst Mike and Tom look on as if this is the most normal thing in the world. Deja Vega are everything but ordinary. Everyone in the room acclaims at the end of the set, whether they be the hardcore down the front who've come up with their own chant for them or the curious or friends and members of the other bands. Whilst they might never ooze commerciality, they’re a band that inspire and demand devotion in return for something that no one, with the glorious exception of Ist Ist and LIINES, will give you.
We feel sorry for The Other Kingdom at this point. Following that is almost impossible and the massive overruns, not helped by the compere’s insistence that we have to listen to more of a performance poet when all we want is music, have meant that half the crowd have departed for the last buses and trains (sort that out please Mr Burnham), but they do exactly what they should do in this situation and be themselves.
Their recent debut album Reveur of course forms the main part of their set and it feels like this is their Manchester launch. People are already singing back the words to them despite it being out on the street a few weeks and in Del, they’ve got a front man who absolutely demands your attention and gets it. He spends half the evening down amongst us on the dance floor, throwing shapes, using his arms to emphasize and accentuate the words he’s singing whilst his band mates create dark psychedelic patterns across which to weave his magic. This is dark and dramatic and the remaining crowd love them, dancing their weary drunken bodies through the set and demanding an encore of Vacate The Horror which they oblige with.
This Other Kingdom are on Facebook and Twitter.
Déjà Vega are on Facebook, Twitter and Soundcloud.
The Valkarys are on Facebook and Twitter.
Muertos are on Facebook and Twitter.
Control Of The Going are on Facebook, Twitter and Soundcloud.
Follow Even The Stars on Twitter at @eventhestarsuk and like our Facebook page for all the latest updates