Deathcrash provide an emotive soundtrack for a humid Autumn evening in Bristol
The enveloping nature of Bristol’s Cube microplex perfectly suits the cathartic, moving sound of this Slowcore four piece.
Verdict: An emotive way to clear your head
A humid Autumn evening feels like the ideal setting for Slowcore listening. It’s Sunday in Bristol, and I’m up around Stokes Croft meeting a mate before the gig. The late-weekend stillness is only broken by students on the first nights out of this year’s freshers week. We meet at The Bell, a scant establishment tucked away on a side street, its bar adorned with socialist stickers and serving locally brewed stuff.
It’s this same mate who introduced me to Deathcrash, an emotive four-piece who dropped their second album, Less, earlier this year. Be sure to look for that one on the Sourhouse Albums of the Year list in December – it’s been a regular listen for me as of late. Not only have they nailed their take on the genre, but they command a tactful balance of patient, gentle intros and hard-wearing choruses with overdrive and noise. The development that their sound already has goes far beyond their modest presence both in real life and in the wider UK Alternative scene.
Something about seeing these guys feels quite culminating; my mate and I were quick to bond over Shoegaze when we first met. Slowcore’s inferences of Dream Pop and its similar characteristics to the cult-feel of a lot of Emo and Math Rock material strings together some kind of narrative for me. We make our way to the venue, mulling over the state of conspiracy theory prevalence in rural parts of the country (would you be surprised if I told you we were both on a politics course at university?).
It’s my first time going to The Cube, a true arts complex set amongst a gabble of 20th century industrial buildings. The bar serves trendy beers and the low lighting suits equally trendy outfits. I’m never quite sure how to dress for Bristol, so I’m sticking to my guns with a flannel shirt. Our first surprise of the evening: we’ll be sitting down for the gig. I should have guessed, given that Cube’s main feature is its microplex cinema. The last time I sat down for a concert was Elbow at the Hammersmith Apollo. Somehow, I think this performance might be a little more avant garde.
“The last time I sat down for a concert was Elbow at the Hammersmith Apollo. Somehow, I think this performance might be a little more avant garde.”
Indeed it is. The stage is lit blue, with the lights squared on the audience, whilst a gentle drone fills the space. Though small, the microplex’s gently curved seating and oblong ceiling encase the acoustics in the room. First on stage is the warm-up, Jerome, who suddenly appear backed by trippy projections and an ambient sound. Their 30 minute performance bleeds both one track and one visual into another, and I quickly find myself happily being carried by their currents. Ambient material always has my mind asking about the placing of the song – where it takes place, where I feel I’m being taken by it – and the fine pacing of the duo ensures that things move with intention. We traverse from open meadows to dark club basements and beyond.
An off-focus set of soft green lights appear on the screen, my favourite of the visuals so far, along with one of the closing tracks that announces itself with the cry of a piano. It reminds me of Sonic Youth’s ‘Providence’, though ‘Is Space Is Time’ is far more developed as far as Ambient pieces go. I get pangs in my chest; this one really hit me. The sound pitters away, and silence refills the room. Annalisa Iembo raises her hand to clap, and the audience responds in kind. I feel thoroughly transported, and the capability of Cube’s microplex feels well proven.
More drone in the interlude as the theatre packs out to the max, whilst the stage is flooded with dry ice. The tune changes, and the vague figures of a band walk on. Deathcrash open with ‘Pirouette’, bringing their set to life with an ease, taking time to settle both themselves and the audience. Not that we can see them, that is; there is so much dry ice that only the occasional outline of a head or a guitar can be made out. If that risks creating some disconnect in the performance, the enveloping nature of the microplex certainly counters that. Tiernan Banks’s vocals are the node in this hiddenness, whilst the band’s sound flows with power and emotionality.
“Halfway through, I find myself truly lost, wandering into thoughts of Bute Park, suburban streets and past relationships.”
Halfway through, I find myself truly lost, wandering into thoughts of Bute Park, suburban streets and past relationships. Such is the effect of the band’s lyrical content. In being seated in tiered rows, it’s far easier to see how everyone else in the audience is responding, and it’s a sensation I’ve not had before. There’s no doubt that all of them are just as transfixed as I am. I imagine what seeing this band high would be like.
Towards the end of the set, the smoke is allowed to dissipate, and the lighting changes. The bright LEDs pointed at the crowd make way for floodlights, laid on stage and flashing white in time with the music. It’s the most we see of the band all evening, by now all moving around the stage with confidence. Their performance has been consistent throughout, ebbing and flowing with the content of their songs as opposed to the connection between the band and the audience. In that regard, and doubled-down by the artsy setting, this is one of the more deliberately staged performances I’ve seen in a long time. Once again, it seems to far outreach the usual capabilities of small bands.
The gig draws to a close with great applause from the audience; Deathcrash certainly pulled off what they were going for, and this miniature little space tucked away in a corner of Bristol feels as if it’s witnessed something very special. To have been sitting down for it only adds to the sense of significance.
The main feeling I’m left with, however, is a sense of release. Live, Deathcrash are tremendously cathartic, the all-encompassing nature of their performance like a pipe cleaner for the brain. We clamber our way through the steps and rooms of The Cube to the exit, and I enter the Autumn night refreshed, emotionally exorcised, and keen to whack on some more moody guitars on my journey home.