If the fantastic names on the poster were anything to go by, ‘MINDSLIP’ sounded like it could be a psychedelic and kaleidoscopic sonic experience. As promised by the fantastic team at Fuse FM, four fantastic and contrasting student bands delivered an evening of ‘cosmic vibrations (and other sounds)’ to Manchester’s most important venue, Night and Day Café.
With the task of creating a live feed of the gig to Fuse FM comes a number of logistical hurdles, fantastically mastered by William Clark-Steel. And, Following some pre-gig technical demons from Night and Day’s Sound team, the Manchester Universities Technical Theatre Society were called in and thankfully enabled the evening to be a memorable success.
Big Enough Umbrella
Fuse FM’s deputy station manager and primary organiser of ‘MINDSLIP’, Rowan Wilson, introduced the first band, jazz trio, Big Enough Umbrella. With most of their set comprising of original songs, this trio were incredibly impressive in delivering such a well balanced set. When such intricacies in rhythm and groove are presented with what seems like effortless poise, you can tell the players have mastered their craft. Big Enough Umbrella highlighted this in their individual performance and their overall cohesion. The clean tone and consistent groove of bassist, Alex Bresh, alongside the impressive, precise and varied breaks from drummer, Jake Brown, skilfully complemented a keyboard virtuoso. Fraser Rowe’s use of the smooth Nord tones and wet sounds of his Prophet mounted one on top of the other generated a Weather Report sound with an overall contemporary groove akin to corto.alto or Kaelin Ellis. A great start to ‘MINDSLIP’.
Truth Paste – “Sorry we’re not jazz”
By dramatic contrast, this next band are like nothing I’ve witnessed before. Ever-changing multi-instrumentalist five piece, Truth Paste, began their set with a pitch shifted recording of the iconic title music from ‘Chariots of Fire’, interrupted by a punchy drum backing track. The entire set was supported by a detailed backing track; clearly a reasonable amount of production work had gone on behind the scenes to provide the band a virtual percussion player. It was a great theatrical opening. I had no idea what to expect, and that is how I felt throughout their set.
Not one song was like another. Truth Paste flitted between three part vocal interplay, some spoken word and great interjections from saxophone and flute (sometimes violin), the melodic shape being sometimes angular, always unexpected. Their overall vocal sound seemed to lie somewhere between Big Thief’s Adrienne Lenker and Jockstrap’s Georgia Ellery. I found Truth Paste’s set only got better as Night and Day warmed up to the sort of chaotic and energetic band they were. When they wanted to, they knew how to be catchy and how to be the absolute antithesis of convention.
Their final song following the lyrical narrative of “I am singing to you and you are being sung to!” sums up the band’s semi-bizarre nature reasonably well. Most importantly though, they finished with superb energy. I was left with a strong feeling that Truth Paste were a fundamental dive into the art of the silly and that wasn’t a bad thing. Excellent fingerpicked guitar, versatile vocals, electronic mastery and unorthodox narrative underpinned their performance.
Five piece Clam Attack were a tight, mostly high energy fit. Manchester Wire’s description of them as a jazz-electro-blues fusion band seems slightly inaccurate and definitely doesn’t do them justice.
Clam Attack’s soundworld presented a methodically progressive and innovative option to Manchester’s music lovers. The band is driven wonderfully by some adaptable vocals from Emily Mason and Louise Brown, who delivered emotive and powerful performances. Drummer Izzy McMahon provided seamless transitions between subtle and nuanced fills, to explosive moments of passion, with the ability to incorporate jazz intricacies into their playing when required.
Lara Rogacin’s excellent keyboard comping added necessary depth and texture, while Louise’s sax repeatedly enabled each song to move up a gear in energy with great musical dialogue. Charlie Wells’ performance on bass was exceptional. It is worth noting his methodical and interactive approach in which he was sometimes percussive yet always supporting; simply masterful. Emily Mason was particularly impressive in rap sections and it was at this point in their set where you saw that their performances are not just about the musical content, as the band physically locked into the emotions of the track, creating a memorable piece of performance artistry. Overall, Clam Attack is a band that delivers a high-energy and exciting performance, with exceptional musicianship. Five stars for five talented clams.
L A G O O N
‘MINDSLIP’ climaxed with the rich and deep sonorities of seven-piece headliner, Lagoon. Night and Day really started moving at this point, and it is a credit to the band’s fantastic ‘clockwork’ like performance, balanced by their great musical character.
The opening song ‘Denim’ outlined their sound very well. They’re a steady grooving, warm and wonderfully arranged ensemble. Immediately obvious was Sam Reynolds’ detailed drumming. Without his professional balance of depth and control, the other players may have struggled to be quite as intricate and impressive. As it was, we were given a standout solo from John Alcock’s tenor sax, and not for the only time that evening. ‘Billy’ brought soft and comforting lead vocals from keys player and songwriter, Harvey Morland, alongside backing vocals from bassist Rowan Wilson. The repeating and captivating refrain, ‘I fall into you’ was deftly punctuated by trumpeter, Henry Shepherd and Alcock’s sax, highlighting the skill of their part’s arrangements.
With each tune, Harvey’s vocals grew stronger and flexed his full, impressive, vocal skillset. The noodling guitar interjections from Bruce Dent on ‘Detective M’ was a tasteful highlight, as were his colourful and methodical solos. The guitar tone in Cameron Murray’s rhythm playing was also noteworthy, providing a solid foundation for the band’s grooves. Bruce’s jazz chord voicings, and a stripped out section following his mind-bending solo on ‘Bobbies’ highlights the beauty of Cameron’s acoustic tone. But this track was made particularly special by the fantastic penetrating bass line, doubled by the piano, creating a piercing percussive tone, that ripped through Night and Day.
The energy of what was an undoubtedly jazzy crowd during their closer, ‘Change your mind’, in particular, is a testament to the band’s song writing abilities and close musicianship. The outro here was where I saw Lagoon in one of their tightest moments. Technically impressive with an engaging overall sound, Lagoon were an excellent finish to ‘MINDSLIP’.