I suppose all this waffle should lead you to realise that they were fantastic. It was a blast. They’re brilliant. Next time they’re in the playpen of Western Europe you need to see them.
SUB 071 was packing up for Xmas, and this gig was their send-off: and with a potential new writer in tow, Incendiary should have been prancing round this famous musty old squat venue like a lord showing a productive and loved tithe farm to his new bailiff. Instead, and we have to ‘fess up a bit here, we were a bit concerned at our welcome; as we’d effectively destroyed a lot of furniture at our 10th anniversary party the previous week. Creeping around like Banquo’s Ghost upstairs was a bit galling, especially when we saw the fruits of our labours; namely half a table, a destroyed lamp, a rickety step with a foot-shaped hole and a socking great gap in the ceiling. Luckily the geniality that infuses this great space had thawed whatever froideur remained from our do, and soon we were happily chatting on about polyrhythms in Malian music. The things you do after a beer, eh?
Let’s cut to the chase, despite this being last gig of the year, and despite the two tasty and talented support bands in tow, most people here were waiting for Repetitor, a sensational act from Belgrade. Repetitor’s LP is an excoriating, flinty exhibition of attitude and we couldn’t wait to see how they translated their Balkan phlegm and gristle onstage. But more of them later. First up in the gloaming of the SUB basement was Sweet Release of Death, an act who are coming on leaps and bounds every time I see them. Sweet Release of Death (no, I can’t call them SROD it sounds ridiculous) have two things that they can really develop. Their angry linear rock is built on crisp clear lines; when it works the guitars chime and the bass rumbles like a bubbling stream. And mixing this clear sound with a sort of rasping undercurrent in the low registers allowed the harsh, barked vocals a decent platform to perform on. Sweet Release of Death also seem to have got the dynamics sorted between the three of them: they have a fast paced, roving element about them, at times they eschewed their music like a scattergun around the room. In essence they are aware of each other now, and relish the fact that they can put on a show. The only thing they need is a bit of balance between these hurling, adrenaline-soaked songs, a bit of space for the audience to latch onto. But they are getting there.
After this it was time for Wolvon, fresh from their triumphant showing at ACU. Wolvon love SUB, they’ve played here about five times in the past year, and you can see they feel relaxed: what with Bram leaving his drumkit alone and Ike trying out his American accent on us, (which immediately, given his silken blonde tresses and dapper beard put me in mind of General Custer)… You can see it’s their home from home, away from the rigours of recording their first LP with Corno Zwetsloot. The gig was powerful, solid, purposeful; not touching the heights of ACU but certainly not far off: we should mention a battering version of Shitpuppy which wrapped things up at the end, a take on Bland that sent sparks flying round the room (such a blast that track) and of course Unicorny took no time at all in revealing its usual sparkling treasures. The audience dug Wolvon, they know they have something. For me, they are on the cusp of something unexpected; they have the potential to make as big, as shiny and as tuneful a racket as the White Stripes if they put their mind to it and start to explore their innate gift for melody and pyrotechnics. (And yes laugh, but please form a queue while you’re at it).
Wolvon’s abstract side was the perfect foil for Repetitor’s abrasive Ironside rant. But watching Wolvon couldn’t prepare you for the sort of attack that this seemingly unprepossessing trio – one who quietly got their Spartan kit sorted within seconds – released on the audience. Whereas Wolvon have this dreamy abstract, slightly soft-edged side, Repetitor are made of entirely different sonic and Psychicke materials.
Bands are formed for many reasons, and have many varied attributes but what the best bands have is a collective identity wherein each component can express itself in total harmony with the whole. And this is what Repetitor boast. Yes, you could watch the singer, who balanced a sort of mild-mannered, 1979 Mark E Smith look with a whole raft of venomous lines and poses. You could appreciate that the drummer’s incredible sense of how to give weight to the simplest, most straightforward beat, how to add a certain timbre to the sound, how to invest an emotional, human element into the rhythm. You could trip along to the busy, precise rumbling lines of the bass, but most of all you just gave in to this incredible unified presence, one that excoriated all emotions other than the ones being dissected during the set.
It was a sweltering, smothering noise, rich in so many indescribable, brilliant things, but some moments stand out strongly: Šteta was a runaway, monged-out up robot kicking the shit out of anything in its path whereas the last track Životinje saw the singer demolish everything in sight as he spat out his message, backed by the furious rolling, machine-like racket.
So there you have it. They are blistering live. Sometimes you have to see a band in the flesh to fully appreciate their power. And, as I’m sure you also know, there are gigs and then there are gigs. Repetitor were…. Oh sod it, so many thoughts have gone through my head about this night – I’m not really sure how to carry on and write a reasoned, objective or even coherent review. I suppose all this waffle should lead you to realise that they were fantastic. It was a blast. They’re brilliant. Next time they’re in the playpen of Western Europe you need to see them.