Before a half-full room of shoegaze fans wrapped up against the unseasonal cold, Tonto amble on, set up and silence the gentle chatter. Playing over evocative projections that veer from sketching patterns and monochromatic kaleidoscopic collisions (courtesy of artist Josh T), the sextet feed off each other beautifully. Their lineup consists of saxophone, violin, viola, guitar, drums and keyboards and occasional wordless vocal contributions from violinist Rowena Wise, so the potential for atmospherics is great. However, still only several months into their existence, there is clearly some nervousness, and at present the band seem to be waiting for a charisma injection, or at least a live scoring project. Though the organic sounds themselves are well played and varied, songs often rely on the same repeated notes and melodies, resulting in shallowness. Still, for an early show, great potential is hinted at.
Sleep Decade have devolved into a wonderfully atmospheric prospect from the more conventional song-oriented fare they played last year. Casey Hartnett proves to be a stronger frontman than ever and the band subtler and smarter with the twists and turns their vaguely post-rock rambles take. Soon to be launching their debut album Into Spinning Lights, the tracks Bicycle and closing opus Mexico stand out as impressive examples of their muscular brand of dream pop.
Though energy levels have been low both on stage and in the crowd (music of this nature rarely results in external exuberance), Lowtide take that lethargy (somewhat alleviated by the setting up of a tepee on the balcony above the stage from which excited occupants sporadically scamper) and transport us to a brighter, better place. Anchored by the drums of Anton Jakovljevic, the effulgent guitar work of Gabe Lewis is as stunning as ever. Few moments in music history involving one man, one guitar, three amplifiers and a dozen effects pedals can have sounded as good as this. The dual bass and vocals of Giles Simon and Lucy Buckeridge swoop and soar and together, setting faces into expressions of serene elevation. The holy trinity of Lowtide recordings (No Horizon – recorded when they were still known as Three Month Sunset, and last year’s Underneath Tonight / Memory No. 7 single) get the loudest receptions, though highlights from their forthcoming album sound equally as exciting. It can’t come soon enough. Not just a great shoegaze band, as international blogs increasingly note, but a truly great band.