We’re down in quinoa capital of the world, Chorlton. To be more precise we’re in upstairs of Dulcimer, to see a gig in a room the shape of a Tetris piece. To give you a clue, it’s not the square one.
We’ve talked about Rhys Bloodjoy many times before, but his latest performance cemented what most people on the Manchester psych scene suspect: that he is a true artist in the John Cale sense of the word.
For those uninitiated with his work, he is simply one man with a guitar. Twee indie pop? Not on your nelly, my old sunbeam. The music Bloodjoy plays is psych-western gone rogue and exiled from any notion of genre or cliché. He thumps a beat then loops it. He plays a bass line and loops it. He creates melodies and loops them. He sings and loops it. He blasts his way through sets like a performance artist.
One man does the work of six. He creates a sensory overload. This is psych music that is both stripped back and overwhelming. The simplicity equates to trance. The drum beat on ‘Aim High’ is so virulent, so possessing that when the song ends you are still locked within it, nodding your head and shuffling your feet to a beat resonating within your bones, in a temporarily silent room.
The beats are Apache war drums over the hills. The guitar shreds siren-shrieks like air raid warnings. This is music of drama and conflict. Dry and blood stained, his music is aggro released and squared. But starkly beautiful melodies reside inside. Bloodjoy is the musical equivalent of High Plains Drifter. Bloodjoy is existential as well as gut piercingly visceral. Bloodjoy is as cinematic as he is musical. He is wasted playing in bars. Bloodjoy is ahead of the game. Bloodjoy is another game entirely.
We call him The Desolation Cowboy. Some say Manchester is not big enough for him. We say the world is waiting for him.
Next up are the witty and verdant Jungfraus.
When I saw front man Mick Kenyon hunched at a table, poring over his set list, worn leather jacket wrapped around him he cut a distinctly Mark E Smith figure. A young, vital Mar E. Smith to be sure, not the old toothless Mark E Smith, releasing the same album for the sixth consecutive time.
On stage The Jungfraus look and play like a garage band. You’d be forgiven for expecting them to be another 60s throwback. Straight away though it shrieks you they’re actually closer to glam. Don’t worry, there’s no platform shoes or Noddy Holder mirror hats. The difference is that Mick is a wordspitter. The singer in a psych band is generally speaking, a mumbler. Mick has words to say. He is not afraid to use his voice and to have people listen to his lyrics*. The band is glam in the sense that Mick has an ego. This isn’t to disparage. The scene is overrun with psych bands with singers who mumble in the shoegaze style. Mick owes more to Ray Davies. Plus, he plays the only guitar in a stylish, expansive manner, cutting into solos and happy to stand front and centre on the stage. In this sense he’s from the Elvis Costello school. Maybe even the Johnny Thunders style of punkish guitar frontman.
The songs are bright and preppy; pop-wise, but unafraid to muscle down for an extended run out. Augmented by cutesy keys and powered by show-boating drumming, The Jungfraus are unafraid to mix strength and wit.
Energetic and refreshing, just like Irn Bru.
*Other examples of bands with singers unafraid to sing are Total Victory and The Maitlands.