Sextile @ The Sunflower Lounge 25 January, 2018

Sextile @ The Sunflower Lounge 25 January, 2018

sextile

Taking to the stage first tonight in support of Sextile, were The Exhailers with a Picasso-painting of a sound; angular, disjointed but far from two dimensional.

For much of the set I struggled to determine whether the guitarist could actually play or not. Whether some of his strokes were from the Les Dawson “can play so good I can play bad” school of musicianship or whether it was pure Punk Rock arrogance.  Well, I eventually realised that the angular off-kilter nature of the guitar melodies alongside the smooth and fluid bass runs and tom biased drums is a sound marginally short of genius.

There is an indefinable something about them that I can’t quite put a finger on. Much of the set has what I can only describe as a flat quality to it; neither musically speaking nor in terms of quality… just flat. The female bassist sings musically flat and low in the mix whether by design or by accident yet it works.  It gives the songs a 90s college rock meets grunge meets Riot Grrl type sound, an old familiar sound that is sadly under used these days. I can’t give you a reference point because these guys don’t naturally sound like anyone that springs to mind. I need to see more of this stuff as the short set is too short by far.

After a little beer break the venue is suddenly very busy. Either the next support, Le Feye, are a pretty hot act, or they have a whole lot of friends. Truth is I suspect that it is the latter given that tonight is their debut gig.  They go down well from start to finish but this is not for me and by the end of the set I am left scratching my head as to why they were misplaced on this bill. They are definitely the odd man out here. Returning to the artistic analogy these guys are the Rembrandt in a gallery full of Picasso, Magritte and Dali. Classy and smooth, yes, but this Johnny doesn’t want Baroque when there is a roomful of that intriguing surrealist shizzle on offer.

I really cannot criticise them beyond their misplacement. They have a superb frontwoman in Gaby-Elise, who has a voice that many talentless reality talent show wastrels would die for. It is smooth, has range and fits the music. The other members back the vocals solidly. Five string bass fills the sound of the dual guitars with fluidity, which to be fair is needed as there is often too little difference between the guitar parts.

The second guitarist stands stock still looking somewhat nervous which could just be the concentration on her part or first gig nerves. Nervousness does go counter to her Poison Ivy mid-80s style and looks. These guys, with their subtle Cramps like imagery, strong vocals, Canadian band Heart meets Goth-Blues melodic rock, not to mention a strong line in quality looking Gretsch guitars, are good and go down well with the large crowd. Other than the epic swelling sound of the last two songs there isn’t quite enough for my personal taste but do go check them out yourself though, because they undoubtedly have something.

Having spent a few days at work with Sextile on Spotify rotation and me wondering whether they can live up to the recent rave reviews / hype, I’m propping myself lazily against the wall with all appendages crossed. I’m hoping desperately that I’m not going to be disappointed as I’ve spotted the band milling around and they look killer cool.

A wet January night in Birmingham is probably not the most appealing when you’re used to the Boulevards of L.A. The drummer spends a good five minutes pre-gig warming up and that means rubbing her hands and not just stretching.

Okay…. Here we go… cue….. Holy shit!!!! Cue that unmistakable rasping throb of a Korg synth being revved the hell out of!!! Other reviews are totally spot on and I recommend that you take the time to read some of those. It is a throbbing wall of sound, straight ahead drum beats and reverb heavy vocals with no let up from start of the set to the end. The bass throb of the synths lead a doom laden industrial sound that overlaps with that New Yawk No Wave scene and 80s Synth Indie along with more. This sounds like a band that have taken all the best parts of their favourite bands and condensed it down into a powerful gunk of diesel, blood and spunk scented by that unmistakeable smell of burning electrics.

Think very early Depeche Mode, a more danceable Suicide, the lo-fi tension of early Jesus and Mary Chain, a scuzzed up and heavily parred down Einstuzende Neubauten, Joy Division and a massive nod to the electro Goth-Punk of 80s underrated band Alien Sex Fiend. It’s an instant head turner and it only takes one song to stop my lazy lean on the wall and smack me round the head into full attention mode.  An early showing from “Who Killed Six” settles everyone down into a rhythm, heads bobbing forward in sync with the insistent throb.

Slower numbers like the modulated synth sound rhythm of “AVC” still maintain a driving and insistent feel to the whole set. A paranoid soundtrack to a journey through the filthy backstreets of an undetermined city.

By the time the band lose their leather jackets and are stripped down to skinny white jeans, tight tops and peroxide mops, the whole room is a seething bobbing mass of youthful (though not necessarily young). Songs like “Ripped” and “Situation” are an angular cheek-boned, angry snarl and there does feel like a tension in the room that doesn’t find any release from the set.  For anyone old enough to remember those early Jesus and Mary Chain riot strewn gigs, if these guys had been around then they would have elicited those same responses. As it happens we’re all a whole lot more sensible or jaded by it all and nobody is going to riot tonight and by the end of the gig there is not a single person not moving jerkily to the beat.

The tension release comes when the set finishes.  Whilst I would have happily listened for another hour, it is like coming up for air. A real relief. Ten minutes later I’m sat on the train platform holding both albums and wondering what just hit me and hoping they are back before the end of 2018.

Stunning.

Reviewer: Mark Veitch

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