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Club Trenchfoot: Thread Pulls - Bunatee Bar, Belfast

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ATL | 12:27 UK time, Tuesday, 23 October 2012

trenchfoot Poster


Club Trenchfoot: Thread Pulls and Blue Whale
Bunatee Bar, Belfast
20th October 2012.

Though most Belfast’s gig-goers are currently squeezing into Voodoo for Ed Zealous, here in the Bunatee there’s a more leftfield bill on offer in the guise of local boys Blue Whale and Dublin’s Thread Pulls. It’s a tale of two cities, and true to form it’s the best of times and the worst of times.

With handsome posters and the gimmick of a £4.99 entry fee, promoter Trenchfoot has put together a decent event so it’s disappointing their efforts are rewarded with a small crowd. Openers Blue Whale hold off in the hope that a few more punters will trickle in but it’s not to be.

While many of their instrumental contemporaries rely on layers of distortion and delay to build atmosphere, Blue Whale have the confidence to experiment with time signatures and tempo, delivering brash, intricate riffs through clean amps. Their crowd interaction is sharp and perfectly pitched.

Thanks for fighting your way through the crowd’ says bassist Andrew Elder. Truth-told the boys are so absorbed in their music, thrashing around in unison, the attendance makes minimal impact on their performance.

Structurally speaking, ideas are raised and abandoned, tangents are pursued with meticulous interest but they maintain a sense of wonderfully ordered chaos. The real highlight proves to be Elder’s virtuoso bass grooves, his fretwork displaying more dexterity than a Chinese gymnast. It’s Post-Rock tinged with Math-Rock sensibilities (Post Rock2 if you will) and it’s exhilarating. Last song ‘Jigsaw Fixer’, featuring fraught vocals and chunky chords, triggers uninhibited dancing. It almost sounds like a different act but dispels any notions that these boys are a one-trick pony and makes for a satisfying climax.

Thread Pulls begin without introduction and as most of the crowd are still chatting at the bar it’s an unassuming start. Opening with new release ‘You Melt Words’, their sparse sound is shaped by Peter Maybury’s tom-laden drums and Gavin Duffy’s half-spoken, occasionally falsetto vocals. The overarching concept is fresh and ambitious but realistically Duffy lacks the musicianship to pull it off.

Too often melody is overlooked in favour of repetitive vocal chants and the lack of dynamic or temporal variation within the songs suggests an act short on ideas. The set doesn’t build but merely continues. There are moments which promise something more engaging but they are consistently cut short or sabotaged by the introduction of atonal trumpet licks. It feels like the boys have set themselves too many stylistic constraints to stumble on any real innovation.

The room is split between those flailing their limbs at the front and the rest holding their applause at the back, Duffy’s introverted stage presence does little to galvanise them. Much of the set sees him bent double tweaking effect pedals and thanking the audience through a distorted, barely audible microphone.

At the finish line we’re treated to one of the most lack-lustre ‘One more tune’s this reviewer has heard. On paper these bands should have complemented each other but in practice, Blue Whale’s dynamism shone an unflattering light on Thread Pulls’ flaws.

Tom Balfour


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