Venue: Boston Music Room, London, England, UK
Pleasant surprises are always welcome, and this concert is full of them. The first is the venue: Boston Music Room is rarely a first port of call for high quality sound mixing, but tonight proves otherwise. The second, the lineup: while Tides From Nebula had long been announced on my list to see since their stunning tour with Skyharbor and sleepmakeswaves, the addition of Poly-Math [reviewed on the podcast] and Civil Villains – while both very different in style – are most welcome.
‘Trios’ seem to be the buzzword of the evening, beginning with local genre-melding act Civil Villains. While initial impressions put them firmly in the math-rock camp – complete with screaming and shouting – before the band do a complete 180 and drop in desert blues-flavored licks and prominent bassy grooves. Most eyes are on Toby Warren, whose drumming resembles an octopus raised on jazz and is astounding to watch. Their self-styled ‘song for their girlfriends’ flops a touch, delving more into Sunny Day Real Estate-meets-indie, but it’s not long before the one-two of their double-single ‘Fallow’/’Pale Horse’ brings the crowd back to their frenetic mathy ways. In a way their set feels like a view into their practice room: the laidback way they chat with the crowd and each other is remarkable – especially given the usual nervousness of most opening bands – cracking jokes like the reference to the ‘Fallow’ music video as “Birdman in reverse“. Humble and talented, Civil Villains may still be young in their arc, but as their sound evolves it won’t be long before they get picked up by ArcTanGent or similar crowds.
Speaking of ArcTanGent, Poly-Math are favorites within that left-field scene, and within seconds it’s clear to see why. The phrase ‘tight playing’ goes out the window watching the three of them blast through bewildering prog technicality, and having FUN doing so. Fifty people could nod their heads in different times and all would appear to be in the same groove.  The band are locked in and on the same wavelength, to the extent it’s almost unsurprising watching Chris Woollison toss a snapped drumstick and pull out another one mid-beat – but it’s impressive nonetheless. However, the flamboyant star of the show is Joe Branton, whose stage presence is arresting as he struts and dances wildly, pulling a variety of faces while delivering incredible bass. Tim Walters is only an iota less animated, occasionally losing himself in the psychedelic passages of ‘Castrovalva’ and ‘Ekerot’. The overall effect of these three musicians going full throttle is nearly overwhelming, and their set flies by. While it is almost devoid of crowd interaction, Branton does dedicate time at the end to thank the audience, cheekily saying “we’ve got one more song left for you” – oh, only a 13-minute track from their latest EP Melencolia. Cue further brain-melt.
Our final trio is an accidental one: guitarist Adam Waleszyński is missing from atmospheric post-rock act Tides From Nebula, but that is no barrier to their sound roaring from the speakers. From the beginning ambient drones leading into ‘Knees To The Earth’, to the final cathartic explosion of ‘We Are The Mirror’ in their main set, their 90-odd minute set floats in space. The crowd choose to sway or headbang (gently!), mercifully refraining from conversation for the most part. Though allusions to God Is An Astronaut and This Will Destroy You are not unfounded, Tides From Nebula are entirely their own entity, whether in the emotional and deliberate intro to ‘Purr’ or the rock-out on ‘Only With Presence’, complete with Kaoss Pad synthetic drums. There’s an occasional nod to math in the rhythms employed by Tomasz Stołowski, who hammers the kit in louder moments while bassist Przemek Węgłowski revels in the atmosphere and Maciej Karbowski parading around stage, both alternating between their guitars and keyboards. Karbowski is a man of few words, most of them “thank you“, but his friendliness shines through, and the band’s warmth doesn’t drop one moment, even when a monitor malfunctions and is fixed mid-song. Their encore, the 10-minute ‘Siberia’ , is simply stunning as it hits its final crescendo. Karbowski leaves the stage and finishes the song in the crowd, before the other two quietly leave and the song winds down.
Post-rock and math-rock may be seen as cousins, but tonight the relationship between them and the audience overlap is undeniable. All three bands put in stellar performances, and it won’t be long before we hear more from these camps again. The rest of the tour comes highly recommended.
1. Chatting with Joe after the set, he points to King Crimson as a key influence, which makes complete sense.
2. Siberia on YouTube.