Repeat to defeat
EINSTELLUNG / ONE UNIQUE SIGNAL / FROM HERE WE RUN, 27TH AUGUST 2009, OXFORD CELLAR
Oh the perils of a lack of prior research. You'd have thought that by this stage in my gig-going career I might have appreciated its merits - whether that's so as to familiarise myself with the bands' latest releases or simply to be able to know who the hell's on stage.
But no, here I am puzzling at a bunch of kids playing overly fiddly mathy guitar pop with only a rudimentary grasp of the importance of being in sync, fronted by a girl who belongs to another type of band altogether, and thinking they don't sound much like I imagined they might. Only later do I realise that I've been watching From Here We Run and not fellow Oxford types and local post-rock supergroup From Light To Sound. Doh. Well, if they will both choose four-word-long monikers beginning with "From"...
And next, I suppose, are the headliners. Not so - the foursome (they must have recently shed a member) before us are actually One Unique Signal. The name is rather misleading in implying originality - they're clearly deeply familiar with the works of Spacemen 3, Mogwai and My Bloody Valentine amongst others - but the suggestion of a singularity of focus does ring true.
It turns out my companion and I aren't alone in being transported to pedal heaven by their narcotic and massively amped instrumental rock (well, it might as well be instrumental, the vocals being as lost amidst the chords as a small child in a dark forest) - their three-track LP Villains To A Man was recently selected as Album Of The Month on the Unsung site by someone who certainly knows his psychedelic onions, Julian Cope.
The arch drude's review finds him enthusiastically and in characteristic fashion extolling the virtues of repetition: "Many modern albums that contain almost all of the required elements for Inner Travel are let down simply by the brevity of the songs, and the indiscriminate manner in which half-hour jams stop dead, projecting the unsuspecting listener into a gargantuan (and highly useless) silence." I suspect, then, that Einstellung - yes, it's definitely them - might receive an even greater seal of approval than One Unique Signal.
To describe them as "interminable" would be to suggest negativity and criticism, but quite the contrary. Over the course of their three-song, near-hour-long set I find myself drifting from being impressed to being bored to being seriously amazed by what is a distinctively Brummie take on the Krautrock of Neu! and the like in that it's seen through the Sabbath-tinted glasses of a band who unashamedly hail from the Home of Metal. Of course, it's not to everyone's tastes or patience - my gig-going accomplice, for instance, votes with his feet and leaves mid-set - but for me there's something captivating about the way they shift ever so gradually from sounding like Yo La Tengo gently working themselves up a head of steam to resembling a stuck record round at Steve Albini's house.
It's readily apparent why they've been talked up by friends and acquaintances (Brum blogger RussL and Cardiff's Lesson No. 1 promoter Noel Gardner, who reviewed their latest record Wings Of Desire for Drowned In Sound, to name but two) and found a home on the label set up by Capsule, esteemed promoters of the Second City's annual Supersonic shindig.
(Incidentally, to say they've got a bit of an obsession with Wings Of Desire would be a gross understatement - not only is that the name of the aforementioned recent release, the Wim Wenders film is also where they take their name from and what's being projected, complete with subtitles, onto the bass drum for the duration of the set.)
When the set ends, I track down the guy who was wandering about before the set trying to sell Einstellung merchandise. "What's on this one?", I ask, fingering a CD entitled 'Sleep Easy Mr Parker'. "That's one half-hour-long song - it's a tribute to the guitarist's father", comes the reply. "Ah, so it's the song they finished with." "Er, no, actually - that's a different half-hour-long song, but this one's just as good..." And so it proves.