Tuesday 11 January 2011

Insect Guide and Alphastate at The Enterprise, 8 January 2011

Insect Guide

It’s cold outside, but this tiny room atop The Enterprise is like a sauna. The DJ downstairs is so loud that we’ll have to make a fair bit of noise to drown him out. Fortunately, help is at hand.

First on stage, and my first band of the New Year are Alphastate, a one vocalist, two guitar trio who are not prepared to let these cramped surroundings thwart their ambitious approach.

The band inhabits the vast swirling soundscapes that bands such as Cocteau Twins pioneered. The kind of music that had writers of the time reaching for descriptive clichés such as ‘sonic cathedrals’. Alphastate aren’t quite at that level just yet, but they do produce a very tidy sonic bungalow.

In the first half of their set, singer Ani is rather swamped by the FX pedals of her colleagues. Indeed, the first completely audible words that we hear are a perfectly sung “…if you can sort that [guitar] out we can play the next song…”

As things progress, Ani comes more into her own. She’s actually got a strong voice and it’s all very enjoyable. Songs such as ‘A Prayer For Something Better’ and ‘Units’ show promise and I think that all they really lack at the moment is that one single, absolutely killer tune that will make them stand out.

Alphastate are certainly in the right (sonic) ballpark though.

Headliners Insect Guide came to my attention last year with their rather good new album. I’m glad to catch up with them in the flesh, and in such intimate surroundings too.

There are three of them, drummer Chris, guitarist Stan, and singer Su, who hangs onto her microphone stand for dear life and bashes a large drum as the need arises.

Insect Guide create a wonderfully full guitar-heavy wall of noise which acts as the background to a set of rattling pure pop songs. Indeed, the whole mood is much lighter and upbeat than the album had led me to imagine. I really enjoy them.

Tracks like ‘Wasted’ ‘Down From Here’ and album title track ‘Dark Days & Nights’ are mighty things indeed. It’s already like a furnace in here and I’m lurching around way too much. But Insect Guide are far too hot for me to be cool.

Such is the quality of the band’s own material that when they unexpectedly pull out an admittedly great fuzzed-up version of Lady Gaga’s ‘Paparazzi’, it feels like an unnecessary move.
So that’s 2011 up and very satisfactorily running. It’s going to be a good year.

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