God Is An Astronaut and Jo Quail wow us and transport us to higher plains with their transcendental sounds. Dom & Howard head over the Pennines to bear witness.
Celebrating two decades as a band, God Is An Astronaut still offer the benchmark for instrumental post-rock. Their ability to create such rich musical textures is amazing. Throw into the mix cellist supreme Jo Quail and you have a stunning and eye catching bill.
‘Go on girl…you can do it,’ comes a remark from the crowd after initial applause. It makes Jo smile and then the hush descends with poise and precision taking centre stage. Quail is laser focussed as she starts to paint the incredible musical pictures she is so adept at. White Salt Stag is layered expertly with the resin rising from the bow as more percussive effects are added.
A long and hefty ovation is given after the opening piece. Jo Quail explains that Rex is one of her earliest tunes that is slightly different, but it has grown over time. Again, it is mesmerising to watch. Quail looks as if she is communicating with a higher power as she works her magic. Melodies shift between deeper earthier ones to higher pitched lighter ones. It is a beautiful juxtaposition.
Using more dense and drony sounds, you can see why Jo is a fixture of many a heavy metal band when it comes to recording (see Winterfylleth, Wolcensmen, God Is An Astronaut). Gold is introduced as a more romantic piece; and the fair tones suggest so. The way the song ends is beautiful as it fades into the ether.
Throughout her set, Quail looks like she is dancing with her cello – playing every note with every fibre of her being. You can see the passion and proficiency with which she plays. Up close, it is incredible to watch. Her smile is huge as she offers thanks to the crowd and God Is An Astronaut. The feeling is mutual, Jo. Entrancing as usual. Jo Quail will be playing live with Jon Gomm later in the year. Check out the dates here.
GOD IS AN ASTRONAUT
With the changeover complete, a gentle cheer greets God Is An Astronaut as the band saunter onstage. We were blown away their performance at RADAR Festival this year, so seeing the Irish trio again was a no brainer.
Beginning with Age Of The Fifth Sun, from the 2010 album of the same name, the band set down their marker in a swirl of feedback and histrionics before the main riff of the song cuts through. Huge pounding drums and stunning bass coalesce to fill the brilliant Belgrave venue. The rapturous reception at the end of the opener shows just how much of a good night lays in store.
Séance Room follows with its more serene opening. As the track develops, Niels Kinsella again shows off his incredible bass work. It shudders through the room, testing he foundations. Torsten Kinsella wows with a piercing guitar tone that shrieks wonderfully. When the band hits Suicide By Star, the shooting bass is felt thundering through every nook and cranny in the foundation. As part of an instrumental trio, there are no front person antics to hide behind – you are laid bare. God Is An Astronaut, at least musically, do not hide. Each member of the trio more than playing their part.
God Is An Astronaut are shrouded for the most part. Their music is front and centre but the carefully thought out lighting helps create an amazing aura. Each of their songs feels like you are conquering new lands; like stepping out onto a new planet with the start of every piece.
In Flux, from the bands most recent album, Ghost Tapes #10, has a synth-y drone like opening. There is a point in the song where the music cuts away to just the bass and the drum of Lloyd Hanney; it is a wonderful moment as many a band would have gone for the jugular with a solo or the like. God Is An Astronaut hold back with restraint before the guitars truly explode in thunderous fashion. This is a band take their time without outstaying their welcome in songs. Not many of the compositions drag on; they are concise, to the point, bludgeoning and beautiful.
The first of very little interactions with the crowd comes before Far From Refuge; a song that takes us back to 2007. “We’re gonna play some old stuff now,” remarks Kinsella. Harmonic guitar melodies (not to dissimilar to some of The Edge’s work) adorn the introduction. Huge post-rock riffs add to the cacophonous crescendo which are less subtle in taking your breath away. It is more of a gut punch that smashes the breath out of your body.
If Far From Refuge is a little more pummelling, the beauty of The Last March adds lighter hues. Harmony style vocals give an extra layer to the music. This is a song that truly soars. All Is Violent, All Is Bright, like many of the older songs in the set, is greeted with huge cheers. God Is An Astronaut have ploughed their furrow majestically over the years, and the adulation they receive for their older work shows the dedication of their fan base.
In the crowd, their is stoic nodding along (not quite a head bang, but not holding back – if you will). With each song, the crowd show their respect by fully immersing themselves in each song. A few snaps are taken but there is no incessant filming or clicking.
Saving their oldest material for the end of the set, Point Pleasant and From Dust To Beyond show how good this band were 21 years ago. Point Pleasant uses crunching guitars to devastating effect; Torsten Kinsella has a humungous pedal board on stage that allows him to create the vast amount of sounds he wants. Sincere thanks is offered from the stage to the crowd and to Jo Quail at the end of a stunning evening of music.
It really takes something special to hold a crowd where there are no words sung and no gimmicks – Jo Quail and God Is An Astronaut are masters at what they do. If you were there, you know that you witnessed something special.
Categories: Live Reviews