Four years ago, iLiKETRAiNS offered a welcome dose of bass-leaden gloom amid the ber-camp sunshine cheerfulness of Bestival, hidden away in the Jack Daniel’s tent with elegiac feedback seared across their guitar strings by violin bows. It was love at first sight.
Leeds’ favourite post-rock sons are back in fine form as they showcase new material from their as yet untitled, due-to-be-released-next-year, second album. Still dressed in railway uniforms, they have allowed their hair to get slightly shaggy but they are still recognisable. They’ve just taken off their ties and forgotten to shave.
Their music, meanwhile, has been taking more substantial steps. Throughout a set that lasts just over an hour, and for which they have added an extra guitarist, they show that they’re perfectly capable of building on the sonic beauty of 2006’s Progress And Reform EP, and debut album Elegies To Lessons Learnt, without losing what made them interesting in the first place.
Over a fertile mix ofJoy Division doom riffs, a love of odd bits of England’s industrial history a more mechanically-minded Morrissey might have savoured, Guy Bannister’s funereal baritone weaves across layers of sound Sigur Rs and Godspeed You! Black Emperor would be proud of, oozing the dark romance of a forgotten England.
The bold set mixes haunting and minimal old favourites including A Rook House For Bobby with the new material. Current self-released single Sea Of Regrets is sublime, its slow, steady beats carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders, while elsewhere in the evening they loop intros and introduce faster riffs that may prove more accessible without betraying their roots.
Before you start to panic, mope fans, this doesn’t indicate that iLiKETRAiNS have gone pop, or even that they’ve cheered up. Instead, it indicates a sense of maturity and confidence about the new material that raises the game by adding a few more layers. The lyrics are still Goth poetry, a legacy of sharing a home town (and recent tour) with The Sisters Of Mercy, but there’s also a hint that they may have learned something from The Mekons along the way, as well. At times, there’s no doubting the melodic choruses they’re hiding amongst the onslaught of minor chords.
As always they end the gig by setting the guitars to loop feedback, walking off stage as the instruments play themselves out. There is no encore; not because they don’t deserve one, nor because the crowd don’t want more, but simply because coming back out to self-congratulatory cheers would ruin the effect. Being wonderfully self-knowing is, still, a large part of iLiKETRAiNS’ dark and wonderful charm.