KID KIN / GHOSTS IN THE PHOTOGRAPHS / THE BECKONING FAIR ONES / COSMOSIS, 20TH JUNE 2015, OXFORD WHEATSHEAF
All you really need to know about Cosmosis is that they appear to have listened to Black Sabbath's entire back catalogue and decided that the one song on which all their own should be modelled is 'Planet Caravan'. Seriously, who does that?! And the less said about their mauling of Iggy Pop's 'The Passenger', the better.
This may be The Beckoning Fair Ones' debut gig, but their members, while nervy, are hardly novices, having assembled from the ashes of local favourites Deer Chicago, Dallas Don't and Big Tropics. Collectively, they sound little like any of their previous outfits, marrying scratchy riffs with almost playful synths in a way that makes them infuriatingly unclassifiable, albeit perhaps distant cousins (twice removed) of The Dismemberment Plan.
Ex-Dallas Don't man Niall seems to be consciously reining in his rage, though the barked declaration "I've got a condition" in the penultimate track indicates a barely suppressed fury still bubbling away under the surface. Just as there can't be many other saxophone-playing drummers in Oxford, there can't be many vocalists who would write a song about meeting former Inverness Caley Thistle striker Billy McKay on a train.
With their spaced-out visuals, sound reminiscent of Explosions In The Sky and guitarist who bears a distinct resemblance to Stuart Braithwaite, Ghosts In The Photographs have clearly missed the Pitchfork memo that said post-rock was once again tragically uncool.
A good thing they did, though, as - despite relying on a few cliches - they nevertheless bring a welcome dash of brawn and brute force to a musical style that can all too often be a sterile and exclusively cerebral affair. Thunder has been rumbling all afternoon, and Ghosts In The Photographs are well suited to soundtracking gathering storms.
Last time I saw Kid Kin, at the White Rabbit as part of last year's Punt, the volume levels were such that they pinned you to the wall like a 600 lb gorilla angrily demanding your dinner money. Tonight, the dials aren't quite set to "Brain-liquidising", which, if initially a disappointment, does allow the dynamic subtleties of the multi-instrumentalist noisenik's music (as well as an affinity with Maiians) to shine through.
Songs are deftly constructed before our very eyes, but, rather like watching a talented chef at work, you don't always want to see how a delicious dish is made. As tasty as the live performances he serves up are, you can't help but wonder whether they wouldn't benefit from the greater visual stimulus that projections would provide.
(This review appears in the August issue of Nightshift.)