If you go down to the woods today, you’re probably going to take a minute to notice that it’s actually a music venue. Snapped Ankles are in town, and that comes with a big surprise.
For the uninitiated, Snapped Ankles do things a little differently. In the most stripped back sense, they are a London post-punk quartet, dialling into a stimulating historical mixture of experimental guitar noise and sly, post-modern lyricism. But they do so dressed as trees.
The self-confessed dendrophiliacs have a deadpan, commedia dell’arte-inspired approach to performance. They each adorn a full headdress of assorted fauna: leaves, branches and who knows what small woodland creatures that might have been picked up along the way. In some previous incarnations, they have been known to go the full shrubbery bodysuit, but nobody in Manchester’s Deaf Institute tonight is going to hold that against them.
It lends a certain absurdity to the night’s proceedings. The matter-of-factness of their visual twins well with the dry wit of their writing – one glance around the room at any moment during their hour-long set and you are met with a wash of knowing smirks and, from the people dragged along tonight, a picture of quizzical confusion.
The set itself is dominated by their new album Stunning Luxury, a record released just days ago. Pestisound (Moving Out) and Rechargeable rise above the fray live as they do on record, a narcotic blend of nodding, sustaining rhythm, a shout/sung vocal melody that owes more than a little to the anarchy of Mark E Smith and a penchant for leaning into the freeform improvisation that their musicianship allows. Synths (which, naturally, are dressed as logs) and guitars alike stretch their limbs, or branches, whenever the moment takes them, which is frequently. The effect is a heady wash of modern psych that will have your whole body hypnotised and your eyes rolling into the back of your head, if you’re lucky enough to be able to tune into it.
That said, and remember this is no ordinary gig, the moment that you successfully drift away, you run the risk of being accosted by one of the band’s roaming gillie-suited dancers. If, like me, you didn’t see him coming, it’ll crash you back down to earth with a thud, before you look around and notice that the smirks on everyone’s faces have bloomed into beaming smiles, and you’re back in the zone again. Few bands of this generation have managed to cultivate such a specific persona and at this rate, few will be remembered so fondly.