a place to bury strangers

A Place To Bury Strangers

Komedia, Brighton – 12th September 2012

There's something slightly unsettling about a band selling earplugs at their own gigs. It is unlikely you would go to an art exhibition and be offered a blindfold, so what exactly are APTBS saying about themselves? It's either that their music is unlistenable, in which case why bother? Or it's that they play so loud it will damage your hearing, in which case why not simply turn the volume down? Of course, it may be an ironic comment on the fact that nobody appears to be listening to them any more. When they first washed up on these shores in 2008, APTBS were received almost rapturously by the music press, with both their live shows and debut album garnering much praise. Hailed as the progeny of bands such as The Jesus and Mary Chain, their music was swamped with guitar effects and feedback and had no little psychedelic edge. Come 2012, the release of the band's 'Onwards To The Wall' EP and Worship album were met with almost complete indifference by the British media, something of a sorry turnaround, but perhaps inevitable given the current obsession with country-folk-psych-Americana where 'alternative' has become almost a dirty word.

It does make you wonder when you arrive forty minutes after doors to find yourself one of only five people in the venue. The numbers crept up slowly but when the band eventually took to the stage, the Komedia remained resolutely half empty. In a city of a quarter of a million people, and one of the last bastions of alternative music, it was troubling to see so few bothering to turn up, a stark contrast to recent outings by Savages and Palma Violets where the enthusiasm had been overflowing. Every dog, it seems, still has its day.

And more fool Brighton as APTBS were stunning. With the stage clouded in the fog of dry ice and backlit by roving searchlights, the band emerged like warriors from a future war, half invisible from just six feet away as they shredded the evening apart with glorious shards of noise. As drenching waves of twisted guitar crashed all around, monochrome dancers flickered on the back walls, the ceilings squirmed in patterns of light and through it all Oliver Ackermann's gentle, but melodic, vocals teased the very edges of your senses. No quick run through the new releases here; this was intensely crafted stuff, a well directed and intricate performance of beautifully moulded, purposeful chaos.

There was no encore and no words passed between band and audience; this was a deeper form of communication at a primal level. And at its conclusion a twenty minute epic ranging from storming feedback to lullaby quiet; Ackermann on the floor, guitarless, caressing his effects pedals, or thrashing at his strings, oblivious to the world, caught in a trap of his own design, his vocals emerging only as the barest of whispers.

It's difficult to say what the future holds for APTBS, though tides turn and days change. Don't be put off by the lack of hype: catch them if you can and enjoy seeing a complete event, where every disparate element is woven into an impressively thoughtful whole. And the earplugs? Put them in afterwards and block out the real world a little longer.

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