I’m easing myself back into doing live reviews after lockdown. It seemed really appropriate that my second live review is DENSE, one of my favourite bands. Be warned there will be gushing, there will be frankly over the top words. I apologise in advance.
But before I get to that; this was a great line-up. Very seldom do I go to a gig and see three bands who I really liked; there’s usually one that I’m not keen on. One of the three I didn’t get until part way into their set, but I’m going to explain that, and why, in a bit, bear with me.
First on to warm us up was Belk. Now Belk is the band I didn’t really get at first. They are a singer/guitarist and drummer; I know the classic rock duo set-up, but what they play just isn’t your standard stuff at all. In a vain attempt to find a way to describe their sound I checked out their Facebook Page; this wasn’t that help, their description is ‘2-piece noise-jive’. Noise, yes but jive no.
It may be helpful, or not if I’m completely honest, if I list the increasingly desperate ideas I had about their sound as their set progressed. I started off with doom metal mixed with punk; this is because their singer uses that deep doom metal vocal style at times. Moving on from that I landed on the term heavy punk pathetique; bit ‘clutching at straws’ that one. And finally Garage Punk Zappa. None of these are really that accurate or they may be accurate at times during their set.
The problem is that I was over analysing what I was hearing (something I did the first time I saw FUS who I have come to love, once I stopped worrying about what they play and how to describe it).
What I was hearing seemed to be fairly random at first – seemingly random vocals, seemingly random heavily fx’ed guitar and seemingly random drums. Yet as time went on, and I relaxed into it, what seemed too chaotic and random started to make sense. I came to understand that the casual way the singer/guitarist sang and played wasn’t casual at all. My route to this came as I concentrated on the drums, and boy the drums are good. There is a structure to their songs; a structure that is provided by the drums. Over this the vocals and guitar do their thang. And yes that thang is noisy, that thang is loose but it’s compelling and has soul. It isn’t just two people messing around.
The songs come with spoken parts that I was trying hard to hear as the bits I managed to pick up sounded good. They come with drums that can go from delicate to pounding in an instant. But most of all they come with a sense of, and I hesitate to use this word, entertainment.
Belk are either making highly profound music or are messing around in an incredibly impressive skilful way. Which of these two they are I have yet to decide but they are brilliant. I want to see them again, and you should go see them too.
Next up, Dim Imagery. Now they are new to me, so I didn’t have any idea what I was going to hear. Checking now on their Facebook Page they describe themselves as post-punk which isn’t really that helpful – post-punk comes in many shades.
In fact what I heard over the course of their fantastic set was music that was a mixing and melding of post-punk in all its (Leeds’s) forms. Their opening song came with that funky feel of The Gang of Four but dark and moody, and my ears pricked up and told me ‘yes, this band is gooood’. And this is a band who work the stage; their singer is a joy vocally but also compelling visually.
The next song that particularly stuck in my head was their new single which sounded like a post-punk Doors, complete with spoken sections. But dark, people, dark and moody as hell. They duck into heavy rock, really heavy; these guys can play anything. And then suddenly we are into a song with a full on Cult sound, and the Goth in me leaps, silently and hidden, for joy.
For all of this old meets new, and my nostalgic warm feelings; the thing that their songs have is tunes, great tunes and playing that was fantastic. And for those of you who don’t have that connection to way back when it’s this that is going to grab you.
See Dim Imagery, see them as soon as you can.
And now to DENSE. When you go and see them for the first time all you can do is stand in amazement at the sound that comes from the three of them – singer/guitarist, bass and drums. Get over that as soon as you can, and just let yourself drown in their beautiful noise.
And that noise is garage punky and garage psychedelic. It’s layers of sound that build up and up and smash over you like a wave, then die back only to build up again. And when it isn’t smashing over you like a wave it’s pulling you in, deeper and deeper. But their songs are not just noise, there are tunes in there; albeit ones you have to really have to immerse yourself in the sound to hear. In the guitar there are both almost overwhelming sounds and clever subtle moments that astound. The bass adds both rhythm and what seems like many extra sound layers. There is drumming – both heavy and delicate – that holds it all together. And then there are the vocals – yes there are words but beyond that they are another layer of sound.
What makes their music is the coming together of the sounds they make individually, and the way they mix and twist around each other making something that is so so much more than the sum of the parts.
Listening to their recorded music is wonderful but live is where you get the full effect. Charlie stands to the side of the stage making beautiful guitar sounds and noise, Sam at the back pounds at the drums, and Dylan goes batshit throwing himself and his bass around the stage. It’s the visual contrast between the three of them that gets me.
And live that music invades your body, it’s physical, you feel it deep inside; it resonates. Thinking about anything other than their music is impossible; it takes over your head completely. DENSE live is a full-on ears, mind, body and soul experience.
This isn’t just a gig, it’s an experience. Come see DENSE, gather close to the stage and prepare to be taken to another place, a good place.