Live: VASA w/BODY HOUND & EALADHA (Cork, 10/02/17) Posted: 23/02/2017 by Philip Morrissey
The Spailpin Fanach is a relatively recent addition to the live music landscape in Cork City. Perhaps more renowned for their excellent traditional music nights downstairs, or their private parties upstairs, it has filled the space left vacant by Urban Jungle’s shift in attitude to live music policy. For some time now, the larger room upstairs has played host to techno nights and more recently was one of the main attractions of Quarter Block Party on the Saturday night. Its central location means that it is easy to get to and its warm welcome and excellent pints mean that it is a welcome change for those gig goers. Tonight it is playing host to a trio of alternative rock bands.
This show tonight is part of a whistle stop tour by headliners VASA. They are here in promotion for their recently released 7″ single “Burst Open”. The band has been much in demand in the media as a result. They have seen extensive coverage from the likes of BBC Scotland, Prog Magazine, the iNewspaper and many more. Kudos then so to Cosmonaut Music Cork for being able to secure such a gig. The band have been operating with local promoters and allowing local bands to open for them so far. Belfast had seen TOWERS, whilst the previous night in Dublin had been treated to MEGACONE and SNOWBLIND.
Tonight, the Cork audience is satiated by post rockers EALADHA. For many their “Limit of Our Sights” EP featured highly in their top releases of last year. There is a sweeping melodic scope to their music that is still able to retain a sense of intimacy and power. Indeed, Cormac Shanley’s bass can be heard by all those gathered downstairs as they tune up. Surprisingly it is the first time that they have played live in quite a while. Something that the band are eager to remedy.
It is clear that those gathered are glad to see them back as well. Much has been made of their comparisons with latter day ANATHEMA and KATATONIA, as well as other post rock outfits. Their sweeping emotive style is designed to allow ideas to be nourished and grow. And there is plenty taking place within their music. Dom Murphy’s vocals is at times anguished and poignant, while his guitar lines are sturdy and varied. Shanley’s bass work is tough and consistent. Meanwhile, Peter Crudge’s drumming is busy, if slightly loose at times. ‘Hurricanes’ and ‘Heart of Mercury’ are always a joy to bear witness to and retain their sense of elegance. The band also provides a possible sign of future development. They debut a new track which they state had only been practiced on a few occasions and I am informed has the working title ‘Always Besides’. It is raw and much to be worked on but the ideas are there. Hopefully it is a sign of the band working on and releasing new material in the near future. They depart the stage to warm appreciation and the desire to see them on stage sooner rather than later.
I have to admit to not knowing too much about main support BODY HOUND. I dug a little deeper and found to my surprise that two of their members were formally part of Sheffield math-core outfit, ROLO TOMASSI. They had been one of my highlights when attending the inaugural Sonisphere in the UK. Even more intriguing was that another used to form part of technical grind crew, ANTARES. How this blend was likely to mix was sure as hell going to be interesting. The English band had been touring with VASA for a while now and built up a clear comradeship. This had been sealed upon their initial meeting at a festival. But that is another story for another day. I was here to witness their performance and tales of drunken shenanigans would have to wait.
There are times where a performance can catch you unexpected. Even going from the appearances of the band members themselves. Drummer Ryan Bright seemed as if he came straight from a turn of the nineties Madchester band and guitarist Joe Nicholson appeared like he came from a mid seventies jazz fusion band with his floppy fringe and and blissful expression. Meanwhile bassist Joseph Thorpe and second guitarist Calvin Rhodes looked like they came from a prototypical metalcore band. Could this unlikely looking blend of characters be able to pull it off? They did and a whole lot more besides. From the very get go, the gathered crowd was stunned into submission. Mix equal parts of the more elemental parts of MESHUGGAH, the dissonance of ‘Red’ era KING CRIMSON, trickier sections of RUSH and YES, and STRAVINSKY.
To this date the band only have LP “Rhombus” to show for their brief period together. What they might lack in recorded material, they sure as hell make up for in ideas. The opening few compositions crammed a scary amount of time signatures into them. There is an impressive amount of dexterity on display here. Thorpe is positioned right up front as the de-facto front man. His swinging bass almost decapitates anybody too close to him. Bright absolutely pummels the skins with a scant regard for sensibilities. Messers Nicholson and Rhodes inject angular riffs that seem to veer off the songs into the outer reaches of recognisable structures. Nicholson interrupts his hippyish image by exhorting Thorpe to “Hurry on you cunt!”. The level of Grade A freakness is enough to make a jazz playing friend of mine to say “I’ll be back in a bit. This is far too weird for me!”. Highlights of the set for me would have been ‘Void’, ‘Systems’ and ‘Vector Approaching’, but any of them was equally impressive. Lets hope they come back soon.
VASA are keen to point out their joy to play Ireland at last. Especially as it is the origin of many of their inspirations such as AND SO I WATCH YOU FROM AFAR, ADEBISI SHANK, THE REDNECK MANIFESTO and GOD IS AN ASTRONAUT. As much as there is a studious seriousness to the genre of music in which they operate, the band is able to demonstrate a sense of joy and positivity to their sound. Indeed, their mix of noodling and and unrelenting upbeat messages which defied easy descriptions since they begun has been christened by many as being ‘Groovgaze’. The single which they are promoting at the moment was recorded in conjunction with Tom Peters of ALPHA MALE TEA PARTY, who are another band which they have close connections with.
Their ability to not take themselves overly seriously is reflected in some of the song titles. ‘Fat Ronaldo’, ‘As Long as It Doesn’t Explode’ and ‘The Angry Dome’ are clear indications of a band having fun doing what they do. They have admitted that most of them were throwaway references to Peep Show, Futurama and whatever daft conversations occurred at the time. And that is not a bad thing at all. There might not be too much thought going into the names but the songs themselves are bursting with life and spontaneity. LP “Colours” took around three years to put together as the band carefully honed and crafted old numbers and introduced new ones. That commitment has paid off in spades as they abound with verve and passion. At times they work out a reggea funk, others it shimmers and glistens with cymbals splayed by Niall Morison MacRae and jittery guitar lines courtesy of Blaine Thompson and Scott Coupar. John Niblock provides taut bass lines and the irrepressible funk that underlines everything. Band and crowd are in perfect synch with each other.
Unfortunately, I was not able to witness all of their set. The hassles of working the next morning and needing to make the last bus. From all accounts, the band continued to impress for the remainder of their scheduled time with the after-part meant to be especially impressive. The band make so many different genres look effortless so their future is incredibly promising. One would hope that their next visit is soon. It could be that they are too big to play at such a venue when they do. Much appreciation again to Cormac Daly, Karol Lapot and all who helped organise this particular show.
Reviewed by Philip Morrissey.
Photos by Shane Horan and Philip Morrissey.