Time was when a live music show was judged by offering ‘value for money’. Such gigs would typically be in arenas, would last for two or more hours and would feature some ‘wave your arms in the air’ tedium and half a dozen encores.
Tonight, Los Angeles’ fine four-piece HEALTH are pretty much the opposite of this lingering memory. Spawned from the same California underground scene that has already bought us Mika Miko, No Age and Abe Vigoda via the cult venue The Smell, HEALTH are a far more brutal affair than their chums, with no track longer than 180 seconds and barely a moment where they stand still.
Their second album In Colour is a glorious sonic combination of Fuck Buttons-ish fuzziness with more immediate melodies. The eager attendees down the front trying their best to dance are caught out constantly, with the music’s stop-start nature proving not for the weak hearted. Percussionist, guitarist and all round enthusiast John Famiglietti throws himself across the stage throughout; just watching him proves to be an intense experience.
Of the new tracks, Die Slow proves to be the most warmly received, one of the album’s few tracks with what could be called a ‘typical’ song structure providing the gig’s sole moshpit. Death + is great fun, the repetitive computer game-alike riff smouldering under a massive wall of sound before reaching its violent crescendo. Despite the album’s largely sparse nature, it makes much more sense live. There’s less chance to pause for breath.
HEALTH have been criticised by some as making ‘noise’ music trendy, or somehow being insincere with their intentions, especially when they “dared” to release a remix disco version of their self-titled debut. In reality, they manage to combine drone-filled soundscapes with danceable, exhilarating offerings similar to their friends Crystal Castles. Even if their appearance is one of a band taking themselves terribly seriously, they are undoubtedly a great deal of fun.
The delicate M83-style In Violet shows the band’s (comparatively) softer side and wraps up an concentrated, frenzied 30 minutes. No thrills, no banter, but it’s been a draining, rewarding and euphoric evening. The massive leap forward that In Colours displays hints at a progression that will be fascinating to follow in the coming months, especially if the accompanying live shows are as electric as this one.