Concert Review Archive

 

Enochian Theory – Pearl – Arcadian Kicks – Puja Fasua

Wednesday, 19th May 2010
100 Club, London, The UK

Article and Live Photos By Jon Bradshaw

The 100 Club. Serving up a rich diet, in fact you could almost say delivering the sacrament, of music and hallowed artists for 66 years. So called because of its address at 100 Oxford Street in London, the walls are adorned with framed photographs and posters of some of the luminaries who have graced its stage over the decades. From The Rolling Stones to The Sex Pistols. From BB King to Bo Diddley, Lonnie Donegan to Helen Shapiro. Oasis, Muse, The Jam, The Who – all have played here both before and after fame made them household names; even Metallica have a done a secret warm-up gig here.

It is one of my favourite London venues, not just because of the range and quality of music you are likely to hear but it has that ‘something’ in the air that makes it feel special to be at. It is an unpretentious place, all on one floor, it is a just a big empty room with a low stage in the middle of one side and a bar at one end. Tables and chairs can create a cabaret atmosphere, but for tonight they are all set out at the edges of the room, leaving the floor clear. The chairs are rubbish though, every one I sat on was broken, making it impossible to sit back without feeling like you are on a boat. The staff are friendly, the bar prices are slightly cheaper than average which is amazing in this day and age and, for tonight, security is invisible. A venue that treats adults like adults, whatever next?

I am here tonight to see Enochian Theory but there are three support acts to enjoy first, and what great value. For £8 (12 Euro or 12 Bucks) we are treated to 3 hours of live music. I have no idea what to expect from anyone other than Enochian Theory, having listened to the offerings on their Myspace site before attending and being primed by them into a state of positive anticipation. So it’s on with the show.


Puja Fasua

Puja Fasua
There are startlingly few people here to see the opening act. I count 11 people actively watching and possibly another dozen or so milling about doing other things so it must feel like a bit of a live rehearsal for Puja Fasua as they take the stage. They are a young Spanish four piece from Manorca sporting two guitars, bass and drums. Of the two guitarists, the lead player Carlos also handles vocal duties, the other guitarist is Natalia whilst Jorra handles bass and Guillem drums. From the outset it is apparent they are followers of the loud/quiet, fast/slow, clashing and delicate brand of rock that you might hear from The Pixies, The Smashing Pumpkins or perhaps Abigail’s Ghost. Guillem and Jorra form a great rhythm section and the bottom end sounds fabulous and full. The guitars on the other hand lack bite and punch tonight as well as slipping out of tune in every track so that any professional momentum to their set is lost as they stop for long pauses between each number to repeatedly retune.

Carlos’ vocals are barely audible, though I can detect he is singing in both English and Catalan. They coast through 9 tracks of slashing and dynamic post-rock with melodies and energy but fail to impress the smattering of listeners who applaud limply but politely after each number. Puja Fasua press gamely on, toying with us with a succession of false endings and their stop/start dynamics. Whilst they are clearly enjoying themselves when they get into their heavy wig-outs, I sense their enthusiasm waning in the middle of their set, but they grab their bootstraps for the last couple of numbers and I warm to them consequently.

Apparently, their name is a Catalonian expression which translates vaguely into something like, “Going upstairs makes you sweat”. A tighter translation might simply be “Uphill Struggle” and I get the feeling that this is a statement of reality for Puja Fasua. They were kind enough to give me a copy of their EP and, in chatting with them briefly, they do not seem to mind how difficult it is to be struggling young musicians, they are just intent on expressing and enjoying themselves.

 

Arcadian Kicks

Arcadian Kicks Next up are Arcadian Kicks and suddenly a crowd appears, where have they been? Anyway, Rentacrowd are clearly here to support this very young act from Birmingham who are fronted by a female duo both called Rebecca. Rebecca Wilson handles lead vocals and plays some acoustic 6 string guitar. She is extremely diminutive but has great presence and quite a strong, belting voice for such a tiny girl. She is partnered by Rebekah Pennington on Keyboards, Saxophone and backing vocals. Both girls have brilliant energy and magnetism and the novelty of the instrumentation and the set-up itself makes them something of an eyebrow-raising proposition before they have even struck a note.

Thomas Holloway is the band’s guitarist who sports a lovely tan-coloured Epiphone semi-acoustic and has an array of pedals in his stomp box to create a range of voices that would bamboozle even The Edge of U2. He has a unique sound and is clearly serious about his instrument but he did rather let himself down in my book with a wholly misjudged and inappropriate sustained feedback right at the end of the set that was self-indulgent and cringeworthy. Otherwise, Arcadian Kicks blast through about 7 or 8 self-penned numbers that are uniformly bouncy, boppy, poppy indie/alternative fare intended for people much younger than me and certainly not a hint of anything that would interest our readers but I admire their enthusiasm and shouty angst as well as their songwriting ability, even if it is not for me or us.

It is difficult to pin down a comparison for you. Perhaps young people’s music creates a kind of allergic reaction in the ears of anyone over 35 that makes it unrecognizable, but one track sounded vaguely like early Stranglers crossed with a hint of SKA to my ears, which is probably wrong. Nevertheless, they are a bit different and a bit interesting, even to me, so they could well do well within their own niche such is their polish. It is all a bit pretentious and ‘style over substance’ for this old fart but the young ‘uns who are supporting them appear to be delighted behind their strange multidirectional, gravity-defying haircuts. Where’s me pipe?

Arcadian Kicks

 

Pearl

Pearl

Pearl mount the stage and I am instantly in more familiar territory as they rattle through some classic rock that reminds me of The Rolling Stones in their post-Brian Jones, early ‘70s guise, their guitarist, Ian Mountlake, even looks a bit like Ronnie Wood. No Mick Jagger though and it must be ladies night at the 100 Club as Pearl are fronted by Heidi Jo Hines who looks like a cross between Carly Simon and Suzi Quatro (not that that matters one bit) and she struts her stuff in front of the band with maracas and style. She has a great voice, clean and potent – a bit like Bonnie Raitt and it is a relief to hear a ‘real’ singer tonight, a fact that the now growing crowd also seem to appreciate as Pearl breeze through their mid tempo set of original R and B material.

Their wonderful journeyman bassist, Geoff Halden, is clearly having a great time. The sense that picking up his guitar and playing in a setting like this is an unparalleled joy to him seeps from his every pore, along with copious amounts of sweat, as he turns in a thoroughly professional performance supporting a tight, groovy rhythm section along with Sonny Flint on drums. Pearl almost get the party started, but something is missing for me that I can not quite put my finger on. Perhaps it is that Ian does not actually swagger like he looks as if he should and in fact plays a fairly staid and reserved part in the proceedings?

Perhaps it feels like a pub band stepping up to a bigger venue without the musical muscle to pull it off – I bet Pearl rock hard in a more cramped setting? Tonight, their energy seems diffuse and dissipates into the 100 Club. Perhaps they just were not loud enough? Whatever my reservations, the crowd has swollen to about 50 souls and at the end of the set Pearl get as rousing an ovation that such a weird cross-section of people are capable of mustering.

Pearl

 

Enochian Theory

Enochian Theory

And so to the main event as far as we are concerned. The stage is prepared for Enochian Theory who are a three piece from Portsmouth consisting of Bass, Guitar and Drums played by Shaun Rayment, Ben Harris-Hayes, and Sam Street respectively. There is a fourth member, ‘The Lost Orchestra’ which provides programming, strings, piano and extra sounds on ‘tape’. Gradually the drumkit is surrounded by lots and lots of cymbals, a sight which always fills me with excitement. Nothing is more thrilling to me than a really good live drummer up close and really good drummers almost always have lots of cymbals in my book – the quality of the drummer is directly proportional to the number of cymbals he uses – it is a law of musical physics. We must be in for some pretty classy drumming tonight.

It is a shame that no-one has stayed to support Enochian Theory as the partisan crowd has thinned to a mere 8 people, myself included until the Puja Fasua crew come back to almost double our numbers. Proof, if any were needed that prog remains unfashionable and unmarketable, resides in the parents (I presume) of Arcadian Kicks who have remained in one corner and are later seen to be blocking their ears and grimacing.

In spite of hardly anyone to play to, ‘Extra sounds’ gets things going with a room quaking rumble assisted by bass feedback. It would be terrifying if it were loud enough, but the PA seems to be working flat out as it is and as such, things are merely vibrating a bit.

After a long time the band open properly with Every Ending Has A Beginning which I think captures the tenor of Enochian Theory’s sound. They play in shades of gray, muted and delicate, intricate passages are contrasted with heavy bombast. They remind me of Aereogramme crossbred with Opeth. There is something fractured and keening about Ben’s vocals that give the songs they play a sadness, but then he will suddenly let fly and release a death growl that, like Mikael Akerfeldt, does not sound forced and can also be deciphered, transforming the sadness into impassioned anger.

Some of the work is truly beautiful such as the song Movement. However, as the set develops, the sound is truly dreadful and I do feel that the band are not being shown to their best advantage. The in-house sound man at the 100 Club clearly has no idea how to balance this kind of music with its wide dynamic range. Nor is he balancing ‘The Lost Orchestra’ with the live musicians and the whole thing sounds very muddy. Much of Ben’s vocal work suffers in the same way as Carlos’ (see Puja Fasua) did by being simply inaudible or muffled until the more delicate passages of the songs when he can be heard more distinctly.

Enochian Theory

Needless to say, my cymbals/drummer equation is borne out and Sam does a fantastic job behind the kit employing percussion and rhythm as another voice in the make-up of each track. Shaun is charismatic and energetic in equal measure providing wonderfully measured and complex bass lines as well as some pure grunt – most noticeably in the crushingly heavy Fire Around The Lotus which is one of the highlights of the set for me. They close with A Monument To The Death Of An Idea which is complex, brutal, and beautiful – a good summation of the band and their music.

Enochian Theory The tiny crowd is very vocal as they try to leave the stage, baying for an encore. The band look hesitant but the audience is insistent. Now, Ben is a huge man - his guitar looks like a banjo in his hands. Shaun and Sam are hobbits by comparison, but if it came to a fight between the audience and the band, Ben would be flicking people around the 100 Club like The Hulk, so I am slightly fearful for the audience as Ben scowls over them.

However, whilst I am imagining comic book scenarios, the management give clearance for ‘just one more’ and Enochian Theory plug their instruments back in. “Do you want something really heavy?” asks Ben. (Approval). “I mean, really, really heavy”, he asserts and so they end on an encore of Apathia, which is indeed really heavy and Ben leaves the stage to join the ‘crowd’ for a good old headbang in the punishing breakdown. Nice touch.

Enochian Theory strike me as earnest and talented musicians with some fantastic material and it is great to have a UK band playing this kind of music with such aplomb, in spite of the technical difficulties they have to wrangle with tonight and in spite of the absence of an audience. The band is gracious enough to furnish me with a copy of their CD Evolution: Creatio Ex Nihilo. Recently signed to Mascot Records, it will be on release in September 2010, but if you are at all interested, you can get a copy right now from their website. Whatever, I come to think of it, this is a band I would like to champion. They are playing in Southampton in June and will be playing at Metalcamp in Slovenia in July. If you can, get out and support them!

Links

Enochian Theory Official Website
Enochian Theory Myspace

Pearl Myspace

Arcadian Kicks Myspace

Puja Fasua Myspace

DPRP's review of Enochian Theory's "Evolution: Creation Ex Nihilio"

100 Club

 


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