Wednesday, 14 December 2011

The Narrows with Swansong & Flashing Astraptes @ Night & Day Café, Tuesday 13th December 2011

Manchester has battened down the hatches in readiness for the forthcoming storm. The chill wind is blowing along the deserted streets. Yes coming up is Black Friday, i.e. the one where every office Christmas party descends upon the bars and eateries in the centre, purportedly in support of a good time. Yes, I will indeed be somewhere in the mêlée the evening, but the consequence is a bleak Tuesday night. The paucity of numbers tends to indicate that I may be the only paying customer in the Night & Day, or at least one of the first.

Sat to one side of the stage, facing the side wall, the solo performer that goes under the name Flashing Astraptes is creating weird though not always wonderful sounds with his guitars and foot pedals. At times there is a comforting rhythm to the output, but with the amplifier ramped up to max, the distortion kicks in and self control seems to wane as the noises start to override any ambience.

Swansong consists of another solo artist, who has been playing the local venues, honing his keyboard skills and sounds, in a similar manner to xxxy. He is even wearing a t-shirt advertising another promising Manchester act, From the Kites of San Quentin.

Hunched over the synths, the icy rhythms dispensed are wrapped in a deliberately created warmth, just like an Arctic roll (ask yer mum!). It’s crisply dispensed and his lyrics roll freely from the stage. For all his body twisting and efforts though, on a night like this it’s going to be difficult to get anyone up and moving as the music deserves. Rather, it forms a pleasing backdrop for the evening’s conversations. When he finishes, the silence is quickly filled with genuine applause.

A night billed as an electronic extravaganza continues with The Narrows. The emphasis this time is more a case of the keyboardist (Phil Drinkwater) supporting the raucous energy of the two guitarists, Dave Battle and Adam Hynes. From the start there’s a frenetic energy flowing through the trio, as exemplified when the keyboard is almost knocked from its stand by Drinkwater.

The band forces their performance onto the listeners, attempting to dispel any pre-Christmas lethargy with vibrant, effective songs that certainly require a second listen. The unwanted technical “hitch” – a stray, repetitive burst of noise plaguing a song – fails to detract from an impressive performance.

Words & Photography: Ged Camera

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