What with the UK set to be hotter than the Bahamas today it was no surprise that campy Ganglians front man Ryan Grubbs seemed to be noticeably drained at the start of their intimate Corsica Studios show. Grubbs is indeed a gangly ‘un and his head often came close to scraping the overhead lights. His golden locks almost on fire, he achieved near beatific status. Not bad for a band so few people know about.
Initially a noisy quartet lumped in with juvenile surf punks like Wavves and The Fresh & Onlys, the Sacramento band has instead matured over the course of three albums into a kind of zoned out Fleet Foxes ( probably a reference much to their chagrin), with close harmonies and looping rhythms replacing screeching feedback and awkward time structures. There were even moments reminiscent of early Mudhoney and mid-period Elvis Costello, an artist whose work seems highly influential of late.
Their most recent album, Still Living, has been getting a fair amount of critical acclaim, but they remain somewhat obscure and the labyrinthine venue was hardly packed to the rafters . Even powerful support from London duo Echo Lake with their droning shoegaze lullabies, could barely muster a round of applause from the somewhat nonplussed crowd.
Between each song, Grubbs’ nervous reminders of just how warm it was elicited waves of sympathy and respect and therein lies most of Ganglians’ charm. They don’t come across as art-school goons or opportunistic street trash; they are five somewhat hirsute guys with a love of late ’60s psych and ’80s underground noise who aren’t afraid to wear their hearts on their sleeves and bash a tune out, often with a dose of humour thrown in.
Thankfully, the oppressive urban swelter and initial ambivalence of a London audience didn’t deter Ganglians and by the second half of their criminally short set, you could see heads beginning to sway and hips to swivel, and after each number you actually heard enthusiastic applause. Such is their maturation that Grubbs only once asked the sound engineers to add reverb to his vocals, preferring instead to rely on natural timbres. Whilst the melodies may have softened and the vocals had their distortion removed, the drums are still tremendous and provide real urgency to the show.
Ganglians are blessed with a sound that is almost entirely upbeat and jangly, a stark contrast to their album artwork and song titles which reference jungles, caves, monsters, and voids. Only once during the show did the mood soften. It came during new track That’s What I Want, allowing the band a chance to wind down and the audience a moment to breathe; it was the moment the evening achieved sublime status. Whether or not they increased their fan base is debatable but those that were in attendance went home grinning.