Last Saturday the Ev in Melbourne played host to the launch of the split EP by Xenograft, Kettlespider and Bear the Mammoth, three progressive experimental instrumental bands carving a niche in the local scene.
They were joined by another instrumental quartet, The Black Galaxy Experience, who opened the night with ‘Taking Shape’, built around drums, cello, sax, keys and ample programming and sampling. The sound defied their appearance and instrumentation as they served up great experimental rock combining elements of neo-classical with industrial electronica over solid rock drumming.Melodies were shared around backed by varying amounts of groove and glitch, with ‘Slip On In’ creating some great tension half way through the set. The climax of closer ‘Fall Into the Sky’ rounded a great set out to a good sized crowd and genuine appreciation.
Bear the Mammoth bookended their set with a couple of great slow-burn crescendocore tunes in the form of ‘In Absence of Gravity’ and ‘Bonding Leech’. Make no mistake, it was great post-rock with good melody, timing over solid foundations, but the real treat was the newer stuff and reinterpretations in the middle of the set that showed the speed that this young band is both embracing new styles and sounds and building the strength of their performances.
‘Moonquake’ from their EP sounded heavier and fuller with a more solid mathy sound while ‘Rain’ was just that much more intense with the drums banging out great polyrhythmic beats. The funked out new song ‘Sea Ceaser’ from the split EP was brilliant and received some additional accompaniment from the crowd in the form of the airdrumming guy in black up the front.
Xenograft are hard to explain – there are lots of them, they make lots of noise, and they thrive on unified syncopation and sharing the spotlight for full-on solos. I guess it’s experimental progressive heavy math rock with jazz, metal, psych and funk sensibility combined. Or perhaps in some other order. Whatever the case they took no prisoners as they dived headlong into ‘Moon’ followed by ‘Psilocybin’ – guaranteed to start your hallucinations. ‘Chaos Dub’ was a journey through laid back rhythm with a surge from those mushrooms in the middle, and the new track ‘Victementia’ pretty much smashed the fuck out of any connection you may have still had with reality. I’m sure I’ve made mention of “Reefer Madness” in a previous review of these guys and watching the action on stage and the response of the crowd it still sums their set best. Meticulously crafted chaos.
Rounding off the night came Kettlespider with their heavy guitar onslaught and band of “Kettleheads” in the crowd who engaged in a good measure of “brrrrrip” work and random hollering. It’s no surprise these guys are forming a following with their confident presence and playing of their brand of mathy proggy metal, and they started the set with a short musical introduction before heading into ‘Discovery’ and ‘Avadante’ from their debut album. Their new stuff showed the direction these guys are heading in with their contribution to the split ‘Transcent’ getting a great response from the crowd. They were on song and hitting the mark, bringing a great night to a noisy end.
The sound on the night was great, not the loudest any of these bands had played but all the more enjoyable for this level of musical quality. The mix was good for each band with all instruments able to be heard and enjoyed. The crowd had a ball – yeah there was a lot of talking but not out of disrespect. This was effectively a (very big) family occasion and that’s what you expect. Most of all this was further confirmation that there are many talented people in Melbourne who want to make music that pushes boundaries and many others who want to go and hear it live.