Gig Review by John Kennedy / Gig Photos by Ian Dunn

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Erdington’s own electro-sound-scapers of the psyche, Skull TV, use mechanical samples and raucous scrap-heap skip grazing found sounds to disturbing good affect. Drone fuzzed dystopian guitar and drums raged inside a butchers’ dustbin of a backing bass loops akin to knights in armour shagging their way down a helter-skelter during an earthquake. One might hazard at this being electronica experimentalist minimalism. And, did not a Hawkwind angel sing the disembodied eclectic. But, somehow they spawn a heroic gravitas of vertiginous splendor as though Delia Derbyshire had spliffed her way through a matrix of blown-out Mallard valves to gaze on brave new worlds of transistor transmutations. I’m seriously beginning to like this band! Angularly analogue suggestions of Bernard Herrmann’s ‘Psycho’ shower scene violin screeches and Louis & Bebe Barron’s electronica score from The Forbidden Planet perhaps? Don’t ask, we’re told – ‘It spoils the magic!’ Possibly.

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So they’ve taken pi to 2.7 trillion places. Tuh, Playschool abacus stuff! Liverpudlians, Ex Easter Island Head are the much mightier sum of 3 blokes x 4 guitars + 1 drums + faerie dust who take guitar orthodoxy to infinity and beyond. This is performance ensemble composition like you’ve never seen and heard before and it is utterly transfixing. Ingenious, intelligent and challenging yet free of affectation or iconoclastic, avant-garde proselytising. A single composition tonight, ‘Mallet Guitars’ lasted about twenty minutes. Four electric guitars are masking-taped to table surfaces. Variously opened tuned – bridge-strung and capoed, predominantly ‘played’ through a variety of timpani mallets and drum sticks both vertically beaten and stroked. The magic comes in with the mantric resonation created by the mallets beating on the guitar bodies. There’s a few gizmo boxes as well obviously, but the exquisite sense of timing and ambient dynamic becomes hypnotically caressing like a kaleidoscope of heavenly gamelans. Cross-stick counterpoint clicking just exacerbates the joy. And, as the piece glided to its denouement (and this could only be at The Hare) police sirens wailed past providing a perfect closing cool coda.

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Two years to the week since Esben And The Witch last flew their broomstick spells over a capacity full Hare. Not quite so tonight in the snug room though none the less warmly welcomed for that. And, today’s confirmation of a Greenman Festival debut must’ve certainly warmed their collective cockles further. Esben and the Witch are a Marmite conundrum: you devour them with feral relish or ask what all the fuss is about. The set opened with haunting, Twin Peaks referenced guitar howling reverbs echoing alongside fractured melodies. Suggestions of U2 consumed within a hall of mirrors infinity retro-loop merited discussion. This was disembodied ambient anger-angst-doom-Folk for the those who like their introspection depth-charged.

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Unable to shake away the image of Jimmy Page guesting on bow-guitar for a Sigour Ros/Stars Of The Lid showdown this reviewer had to leave early, somewhat disconcertingly dazed and confused – mostly because the brain, so utterly stuffed with the delights of Ex Easter Island Head, had no room left for even more esoteric aural assignations. What a wonderful night and, if ‘This Is Tomorrow’ – what is the rest of the year going t be like?

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