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14th October 2019

Live Review: Black Country, New Road at YES

Jack Blackwell writes how London six piece Black Country, New Road brought an evening of organised musical chaos and dancing to the basement at YES

Black Country, New Road recently took to the stage at YES to deliver an outstanding live performance.

This London based 6-piece group consists of Charlie (Drums), Georgia (Violin), Isaac (Guitars / Vocals), Lewis (Saxophone), May (Synthesiser) and Tyler (Bass). They span from post-punk to rock and even jazz with some Arabic rhythms from the saxophone in one of the tracks.

With all 6 of them crammed on the tiny stage of the Yes basement, they were able to command the room with a chaotic fast-paced angular sound while keeping note perfect proficiency. This performance was amazing, every song built and built in the way an orchestra builds a symphony. As the song progresses, the sound gets larger and the complexity thickens until it reaches a state of chaos forcing the audience to contort and head bop at the artist’s whim. At the peak of these big moments, everyone it seems is performing at full capacity, encompassed best by the saxophonist’s extravagant, squealing and squalling solos. I wasn’t expecting the Yes basement to turn into a mosh pit but the music required it: you couldn’t resist when they reached the summit of each song.

There is no focal point to this band. Instead, there are six equally talented musicians stretching the limits of their instruments. Their musical ability allowed them to, while building to these huge fanfare moments, improvise around that and extend parts to songs which made the performance feel more natural and individual. But equally, their musical ability meant that they were able to descend into a flood of abstract noise, somehow, in a very calculated and organised way.

From the huge energetic highs, it flowed into the subtle intense lows where there were points in transition between songs and abruptly after big moments that it was truly beautiful, creating a real sense of emotion. No wonder there was such emotion when you have a lead vocalist performing with such passion and almost pain at times while his eyes roll back into his head as he bellows out dismay at modern youth culture.

Isaac’s vocal performance smacks of slam poetry, elements of Ian Curtis and Mark E Smith. This style of vocal performance really works for their sound in that he can yell and scream in the big moments but in the more tender moments reduce to almost Slint-like vocals. One criticism of the performance would be that it was hard to hear some of his lyrics but this didn’t detract from the performance too much by virtue of the emotion of his delivery.

In the final song they played, they started playing with the time signatures, lead by Charlie the drummer. This and many other aspects of the performance can’t help but scream out influences of Slint, the eerie repetitive guitar riffs, excellent drumming, the spoken word vocals and the inevitable chaos that both bring. Although very similar to Slint, they are so different and so different from any band I have ever seen live; their performance was truly different and authentic.

Black Country, New Road is a part of a new wave of bands like Black Midi and Squid (all apart of Speedy Wunderground label) which almost transcend the genre in the sense that they blur the lines and cross over as freely as they move to the next song. I cannot recommend this band enough, and cannot wait for them to release an album.


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