sleepmakeswaves

support Skyharbor + Tides From Nebula
author AP date 13/03/15 venue Loppen, Copenhagen, DEN

As I make my way toward Christiania venue Loppen, it suddenly occurs to me that I hardly remember watching a show there anymore, which didn't fall into the stoner, doom or psychedelic rock categories. How refreshing then, to break the trend with an evening full of prog-metal and post-rock originating from three different continents (Europe, Southwest Asia, and Australia). I typically have reservations about instrumental post-rock, as all too often the meaning is lost within excessive meandering and introspective demeanour, but as we shall see, those concerns were swiftly and decisively swept away by the two singer-less groups on the bill tonight.

All photos courtesy of Philip B Hansen

Tides From Nebula

Polish boys Tides From Nebula have been frequent visitors to Denmark, playing here twice just last year (first at Postfest in Århus, and since at KB18 in Copenhagen), and judging by the crowd of attendees gathering before the stage as the lights dim, they're in high demand. Immediately, the quartet's energy reminds me of Caspian at last summer's Hellfest, each musician perennially engaged in some form of movement, whether it be swinging a guitar or bass, swaying as though spellbound, or thrashing his head about to the tune of the music. This is a vital touch, as it helps remove the fixation from one's mind that vocals are somehow a prerequisite to successful rock music in liaison with the structuring employed by Tides From Nebula in their songs.

The tracks evolve quickly enough to keep the listener on his/her toes, alternating between heavy and delicate in a constant ebb and flow pattern. "The Fall of Leviathan" sounds like a more uplifting take on Thursday's excellent instrumental piece "In Silence", while the build-up and resolution in the following "Now Run" is executed in sublime fashion. Admittedly, Tides From Nebula are a little too stern in sticking to a single formula, as very little changes from song to song. But the four musicians are playing their hearts out, and this passion translates to a live performance that is indisputably much better than most instrumental bands can pull off, culminating in "Tragedy of Joseph Merrick", at the conclusion of which the guitarists invade the audience to finish things off amidst cascades of double pedal. Tides From Nebula make a strong case for themselves here, but it would do them a huge favour to also focus on ideas for diversifying their music a little more.

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Skyharbor

"It is fortunate that the running order for the bands on this tour has been arranged with the only non-instrumental outfit sandwiched between the two instrumental groups," I think to myself as the night's second act, the predominantly Indian djent/prog-metal ensemble Skyharbor take the stage. In jest, a companion of mine suggests that perhaps vocalist Daniel Tompkins, a Briton, outsourced his songwriting like a good little globalist; yet as I watch the group perform, there does seem to be a slight misalignment in their music when it comes to laying the vocals down on top of the technical, groove-laden instrumentation of guitarists Keshav Dhar & Devesh Dayal, bassist Krishna Jhaveri and drummer Anup Sastry.

Tompkins, who briefly featured as the vocalist of TesseracT on their record "One", sings in a clean, classically tinged voice laced with chilling highs and occasional falsetto and is of course hugely impressive. But personally, I am left with the sensation that the music written by the Indian contingent has left little room for Tompkins to generate the necessary dynamics to make Skyharbor's songs truly scintillating. It certainly doesn't help either, that the sound mix brings Jhaveri's bass guitar through far too much, drowning some of the melodic intricacies that Dhar & Dayal inject into the music. At times they are more audible, such as in the fantastic "Evolution", its tapped chorus and overall energy sending shivers down my spine, and the outstanding "Idle Minds", but for much of Skyharbor's set, the sound is too muddy to truly carry the band's ideas across. And with the exception of the aforementioned tracks, it pains me to conclude that Skyharbor aren't quite at a stage yet, where their songs are able to dent the boundaries of standard fare djent/prog. Kudos must nonetheless be offered for the huge spirit with which the band plays, and which at times compensates for the absence of those really definitive moments in their songs.

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sleepmakeswaves

That the sound quality did no favours for Skyharbor suggests to me that the knobs were turned in such a way as to make post-rock sound good - this would explain the crystal clear mix that both Tides From Nebula & sleepmakeswaves have been blessed by. Sleepmakeswaves, however, take the concept of loud to another level with their deafening tide of heavy, hard-hitting music. It is obvious from the get-go that this Aussie four piece have found the mystical it; not only are they the most crazed of tonight's three bands on stage, they also have an uncanny knack for building tension and resolving it in vivacious crescendos that, with the aid of a hollow body guitar, are hammered into the chests of the audience with such power it's impossible to do much else than stand, watch and listen in awe.

Songs like "Traced in Constellations" and "Great Northern" are so tightly written, so elaborately layered, so dramatically delivered, and so diverse in terms of their rhythm, tone and dynamics, that they alone have the necessary pulling power to keep an audience spellbound. So to experience frenzy that is their performance, not to mention the exquisite lighting on top of that... It results in the sort of epiphany that we critics learn to look for, and always yearn for. Indeed, the sensation of all these elements - the humbling volume, the atmospheric light show, the songs themselves - fused together into a show extremely light on weaknesses, is one no amount of hyperboles could truly describe - it must be felt, perceived. As "The Stars Are Stigmata" and "Something Like Avalanches" conclude these majestic proceedings, it is with a sense of that surprisingly seldom felt genuine satisfaction that I make my way home to sleep off the night's excesses and muse on what I've just borne witness to. Sleepmakeswaves can count themselves one new fan richer (and I suspect a sizable portion of another 100 or so Copenhageners share this sentiment).

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Setlist:

  • 1. Perfect Detonator
  • 2. Traced in Constellations
  • 3. In Limbs and Joints
  • 4. We Sing the Body Electric
  • 5. Emergent
  • 6. Great Northern
  • 7. The Stars Are Stigmata
  • 8. Something Like Avalanches

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