Wednesday, 14 March 2012

future islands @ captains rest, 7th march

Sacred Paws start proceedings with an exuberant, pulse-raising set of afrobeat-influenced lo-fi pop; consisting of Eilidh of Golden Grrls on drums and Rachel of Trash Kit on guitar, the duo’s intricate busyness belies their simple set up, with all components firing off on unpredictable trajectories and staying in constant motion throughout. By comparison, self-described “pastoral punks” Way Through are a pricklier proposition. Another drums/guitar two-piece, the Shropshire duo revel in wilfully tricky time signatures, shuffling together pop hooks and noisy feedback surges, with resulting echoes of, amongst others, Hot Club de Paris and Pixies (particularly in the Black Francis-esque vocal range).

Yet while both supports make a real impression, they can’t help but be side-lined in the memory banks by the headliner’s mercurial frontman. Normally we'd try to avoid meeting the piercing gaze of buckfast-swigging, wild-eyed eccentrics, particularly so if they’re incessantly slapping themselves in the head and/or growling like a theatrical grizzly bear. But in the case of Future Islands’ Samuel Herring, we can’t look anywhere else. From the moment he bounds onstage, he’s a gravitational presence, sucking all eyes towards him with a mix of daftness and danger.

Despite admitting to feeling “pretty beat up” (less due to the face slapping, more to do with being 21 gigs into a tour without a day off), opening number Give Us the Wind is a spellbinding demonstration of the Baltimore trio’s compelling idiosyncrasies. Other highlights include Walking through That Door and an emotive Before the Bridge, but the longer they play, the clearer it is that Herring’s unorthodox vocal style (part Ultravox, part Tenacious D, part Les Miserables) could turn any old muzak into a hypnotising tour-de-force.

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