Friday, March 09, 2007

For all the (sea) cows


Solomon Kane clearly worship at the altar of Tommy Iommi, piling Sabbath riff upon Sabbath riff upon Sabbath riff to construct teetering towers of riffage that get tonight's Lesson No.1 gig off to a flying start. Featuring (I believe) a member of Swansea sludge trio Taint, they forge weighty and brutally direct instrumental metal, with occasional forays into more experimental territory where they briefly rub shoulders with Noxagt before returning to safer ground.

Trying to make sense of Infants, by contrast, is like trying to draw a join-the-dots picture if you're numerically dyslexic and can't hold a pen. The multinational London-based foursome have been compared to Brainiac and Lightning Bolt by those in the know - but as I'm not, I'll just describe them as "challenging" and (appropriately enough) "as unfocused and illogical as a toddler's temper tantrum". As all around chaotic noise-rock songs unmake and remake themselves, and her bandmates craft music by dicking around with circuit boards, all-important Japanese member Mamiko bashes at a keytar and shrieks. A lot. Unlikely to be appearing in a support slot to Keane anytime soon, then.

Having witnessed their so-so debut gig a three weeks ago, I was interested to see whether Space In The 50s would be any better second time out (for them as well as for me).

Sadly, there's not really any epiphany to report. The trio, formed from the ashes of The Martini Henry Rifles, are sometimes too fast and furious for their own good, once again occasionally out of sync, while the set barely lasts longer than twenty minutes - but Fudge's rumbling bass is an irresistable force of nature and there's a good run of songs towards the end of the set, including 'Vietnambla' and 'Modern Day Sailors', both of which are memorable in the same way that a vicious going-over by a bunch of bikers on crystal meth in an alleyway is memorable once (or, rather, if) you ever wake up from it...

The names bands choose are often as much telltale clues as to what they sound like as their clothes and haircuts. And every now and again a band comes along possessing a name so inch-perfect that you struggle to imagine them being called anything else. Manatees are just such a band.

Whilst being very, very heavy indeed, their music also often has a peculiar soothing calmness about it. Tonight's second song in particular - earbleeding and ambient in equal measure - is like Sigur Ros in antique lead diving suits, floundering around and sinking slowly to the ocean floor as the oxygen runs out. In this respect, it's not surprising to find that they're quoted in this interview for Drowned In Sound as declaring that they "like the way [Swans] can create the most horrible noise ever on one record and the most beautiful on the next". Theirs is a potent and fascinating combination of power and grace.

The set may be short, but then we're running late and it's a school night - and, in any case, much longer and I'd have not only thought it a good idea to get "I love metal" tattooed on my eyeballs but actually gone through with it too.

Manatees, then: the best thing out of Carlisle since the A69 to Newcastle.

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