Sunday, 10 August 2008

Wrongpop 17 presents MS Thomason / Herzoga / Who Owns Death TV / iye @ The Glebe, Stoke. August 8th.

Review by Steve Dean

Photos by Stuart F. Steele

Having seen MS Thomason several times now, including his fine performance at Stoke Sounds launch party last week, it was with interest that I learned his act this evening would include some songs composed for piano. Up until then, I had no idea he even played keyboards, let alone as impressively well as he does. After opening on guitar with a couple of more familiar numbers, he took to his piano stool for a rendition of a tune he said he had written just that afternoon. Leaning lightly to the lugubrious as do most of Matt’s songs, the keyboards add an almost Gothic feel as he plaintively intones his sadness-tinged lyrics. He is a talented player and it appears that the guitar is actually his second instrument, having played piano for far longer a time. After returning to said guitar for a few more numbers, he once again sat down at the ivories to conjure up visions of dark, candlelit chambers in aged and crumbling mansions as his own particular brand of night music poured from his dextrous fingers. Impressively influenced by the classical masters, his final song, after a long and spellbinding introduction, left the audience clamouring loudly for more. Brilliant stuff. Hard-working MS Thomason goes from strength to strength and it can only be a matter of time before he is recognised by a much wider audience.

It’s been a while since I last saw Herzoga and having reviewed their last two singles, including the current one, ‘Satanic Verses’, I was pleased to be here to see them this evening. Herzoga have a sound that is distinctly their own and opening with ‘Blood School’, their previous release, they played a blinding set throughout. The half-sung, half-spoken vocals along with feedback and effects-laden guitar solos are a hallmark of this band; the solid drums and bass ensuring that the pace never lets up for a second. Currently touring with Who Owns Death TV, also on the bill, bassist and Wrongpop organiser Steve Clarke tells me that nightly playing has loosened his fingers most satisfactorily. It has also tightened the band up a notch as well, as touring tends to do, and their final number, the gutsy ‘Swetmores’ saw them leave the stage to much appreciative applause. They will be heading down South for the next stage of the tour. I’m sure they will leave some very good impressions.

The quirkily-named Who Owns Death TV began with a somewhat frantic opening number and more or less kept at that tempo throughout. With virtually no comment made to the audience at all, I’ve no idea of accurate song titles whatsoever but the band is obviously full of good ideas and a few listens to their myspace profile afterwards clarified things a little. They have a terrific rhythm section in Richie Harwood and Julia Ruzicka on drums and bass respectively and are ably matched by a trilby-wearing JS Thornton on vocals and keys and Tom Fowler on guitar. They play their rock with a lively passion and keep the music interesting in a twisting and turning fashion at all times; almost continually on the move as they blast out one consistently good rhythm after another. Although chaotic in places, the band never actually lose their roller coasting way for an instant and hold the whole thing together admirably well.

Raw, but precise, Who Owns Death TV, like Herzoga, have a brand of rock all of their own. A little different to the norm in both cases, it will be interesting to see where their careers take them.

Iye, spelt with a deliberately small ‘i’, are different yet again; creating complex and lengthy soundscapes rather than offer than a selection of songs; taking the use of musical light and shade into new and exciting territory. Joined by MS Thomason for the duration of their two-number set, this seven-piece build on their creations layer-by-layer; section-by-section; adding on and taking away as the atmosphere takes on shapes from the stridently heavy to the ethereally sublime. It was commented to me at the gig that iye’s compositions can be compared to undertaking a musical journey; a comment I wholeheartedly agree with. Some fine vocals add to the general appeal of their works and the standard of musicianship was impressive all round. Great drumming from Cara Beech and I can only assume that MS Thomason must have been standing in on second guitar as their myspace profile suggests a member of their normal line-up was missing. A very impressive set, nonetheless.

No comments: