Tonight’s venue, rather fittingly, spends most of its time as a slightly faded seaside towns favourite seafront night club. The stage is not designed for much more than a DJ, perhaps some decks and if you’re lucky, a vocalist. The back wall an array of striped neon set against the standard black walls. There not much of an audience, truth be told, less than you’d imagine for a group of Föllakzoid’s stature. Tonight is the first leg of their European tour to accompany their fourth album, which has gotten almost universal acclaim and rightly so.
However if you only know the Chilean psych band from their astounding recorded output, you’re in for a treat when you see them live, for they are a different beast on stage. The prolonged riffs are there, the swollen bass notes are resent and the Teutonic thumping drums remain a constant yet they somehow seem to dispense with traditional rock altogether. On their record labels website, it’s said the band are ‘heavily informed by the heritage of the ancient music of the Andes’ but live they tap into something more contemporary, something less sacrificial and more life affirming, and it sounds a lot like minimal techno.
They stumble onstage, whilst the intro music is still playing. Guitarist Domingo lights an illicit cigarette, it’s cherry red top glowing in the dark, a cloud of smoke enveloping him. and he raises his wine bottle in approval to the crowd. His movements are exaggerated, and awkward. He bashes his guitar into the ceiling, but is undaunted and not precious with his gear. He shimmies and sways around the stage trying to generate a staid crowd. Unfazed by the muted response they’re getting, the trio rouse their instruments to life. It all starts with that beat. Their secret weapon may well be drummer Diego. For over an hour he ploughs into a singularly repetitive and incredibly loud motorik pulse that provides the anchor that the other two eagerly dance around. Domingo seems to barely pluck the strings on his guitar, more interested as he is in dancing, swaying clumsily across the stage and removing items of clothing. When he does randomly hit the odd note it generates a fractal of sustained feedback, juddering and thumping. Occasionally a baseline will arrive, blow out the speakers and disappear again.
At the start of the 1983 film The Hunger, is a scene in which goth pioneers Bauhaus are performing their hit Bela Lugosi’s Dead at a new wave nightclub whilst stylish erotic vampires stalk the naive prey gathered therein. It works because the music is all jerky doom and gloom but the visuals are ecstatic and dangerously alive. Jump cuts are used to highlight the tension within the song and the unfolding action. Tonight’s show uses similar dynamics to achieve a sense of euphoric fear and menace. Spastic melodies echo the racing pulses of those watching the group. Domingo is trying to get the crowd to raise their hands and experience the shamanic trance state he’s put himself in, but they’re being belligerent. It’s obviously frustrating, so he gives up and loses himself in the moment. He falls to the floor at one point and the crowd leer over the railings at the freakish happenings below. The entire performance is about reducing energy down to its purest form and embracing that sense of release. Föllakzoid use literal walls of sustain to keep that ecstatic momentum alive for their audience. It’s a shame they not willing to surrender.