THE PHYSICS HOUSE BAND / FALSE HOPE FOR THE SAVAGE / DEATH CULT ELECTRIC, 19TH JULY 2019, CLWB IFOR BACH
When they played a triumphant homecoming show in December, Estrons were riding the crest of a wave. To those of us at the Globe that night it would have seemed inconceivable that they might cease to exist little more than two months later. But cease to exist they did, and now the band's former bassist Steffan Pringle - also a producer, recording engineer and mixer - has re-emerged as the frontman of a new quartet. Sadly, Death Cult Electric (presumably christened by an automated cool band name generator) and their posturing hard rock/pseudo-metal show few obvious signs of early promise, and Pringle is left to pre-empt audience applause that is volunteered only rather grudgingly. Still, at least they've got the song title 'Lucifer In The Sky With Diamonds' going for them, if nothing else.
Straight-up post-rock of the sort proferred by False Hope For The Savage has fallen far out of fashion - but that is to the distinct advantage of a band who might once upon a time have struggled to stand out from the crowd. Their songs are tidy and accomplished pocket epics and the crescendos hit with just enough force to temporarily take your breath away, thanks in no small part to stand-in bassist Rhys, who may have only had two and a half practices to get up to speed but who fulfils a vital role in supplying some beefy low end.
As a trio, The Physics House Band were already an extraordinary ensemble, displaying a cavalier disregard for genre boundaries by skipping, switching and twisting between jazz, metal, prog, funk, electronica and post-punk like Battles gone rogue or The Mars Volta mid-meltdown (bassist Adam Hutchison even has Omar Rodriguez-Lopez's hair). But now, with the addition of Miles Spilsbury and his jazz sax skronk, the jigsaw is complete - or at least all of the pieces are there, just shaken up in the box. Whether you like your brain served scrambled or fried, The Physics House Band are only too happy to oblige. Stewart Lee, who rarely gets excited about anything other than The Fall and obscure Turkish prog these days, is such a fan that he's collaborated with them for a track on new EP Death Sequence.
Perhaps the best way to give a measure of The Physics House Band's brilliance is to record the reactions of those around me. To my left, someone stares open-mouthed at drummer Dave Morgan, whose lightning moves are coordinated telepathically with Hutchison's bass. To my right, another guy mouths "Oh my days!" before masking his grinning, dazed face with a palm. All around, heads shake in disbelief at each new tangent. At one point, guitarist Sam Organ counts out the beats in a particularly fiendish time signature, possibly for the benefit of Spilsbury but possibly just for his own. It doesn't bear thinking about how many hours of practice, both individual and collective, have gone into what we're witnessing.
Whether Death Sequence and its predecessors make much sense in the comfort of your own home is debatable - but live The Physics House Band are stunning. Their delight in defying convention (as well as all known laws of physics) makes them that rarest of things: a band truly alive to the limitless possibilities of music.
(An edited version of this review appeared on the Buzz website.)