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Live review
Tracer AMC, The Winding Stair
I once had a sadistic English teacher who would get us to write essays about the inside of a ping pong ball and the life of a baked bean. The task was supposedly designed to challenge the mind, to find arresting ideas in the abstractions. We never thanked him for it.

Hey, he could have sent his class to see Tracer AMC. They are undoubtedly a lovely thing, a strange bloom, a bounty of guitar tones, drones and rolling chords. But the devil of a thing to put into words without sounding like a royal pseud. Bear with us, for a moment...

It was a joy to see The Winding Stair, a band on intent on getting away from the usual indie consensus. The cello and violin are organic to the music, giving it shape and function. The tunes meander, but not necessarily in a bad way, and the voices peal and intertwine, reaching towards their own kind of soulful tilt.

You might follow this trail back through the likes of This Mortal Coil, Nick Drake Nico and Handel. That's totally commendable, and the last band from here that excavated such an area was probably Chimera. Remember Chimera?

Mary sits there, deadpan and cool, leaving all the drama for the voice. 'These Bandaged Hands' veers towards Miss Haversham territory but 'Hide And Seek' is a pop song in waiting and the closing track, 'How Can I Be Lonely' brings out the bodhran. Another class idea.

Mid-way through the Tracer AMC set, a Winding Stair fan starts bellowing about the lack of vocals. But really, singing fun was never on the menu. Nor was any kind of stage lighting, any kind of discourse from the band, any discernable choruses. Still there's a load of appreciative faces in the audiences, nodding their heads, shaking it politely. The better-known facets of their 'Flux And Form' album are applauded, and a new song has a jutting, savage dimension that confounds us all.

Too many bands are content to fake this kind of music, to play obtuse arpeggios quietly and then loudly. But Tracer are so far beyond this zone now. They are heroically in tune with each other, tossing around little phrases and inflections with tremendous ease. They are the Harlem Globetrotters of logarithm rock.

Hey Sir, can I write that ping pong essay now?

Stuart Bailie
Photos by Stuart Bailie

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Gig Details
Venue: The Limelight
Location: Belfast
Date: 15/3/2007

Line Up
Tracer AMC
The Winding Stair

Related Links
+ Tracer AMC
+ The Winding Stair (myspace)