A well curated pairing of Louisville post-rock innovators Slint with Dublin noise quartet Girl Band comprised the set-menu for the evening of Monday August 18 2014 at Belfast’s Limelight.
Two ensembles cut from the same cloth – two decades apart – here to purvey their personal sound-worlds.
Girl Band are fine orchestrators of noise. Noise is Girl Band’s entire vocabulary. The group’s string section doesn’t necessarily consist of a guitarist and a bassist but rather two people who happen to be using a guitar and a bass as signal-generators for their pedals and amplifiers. A score or tab for the majority of Girl Band bass-lines would just read like a constant chromatic downwards glissando; it just could not contain what this band do with their string-wound planks of wood.
At various times throughout the set I felt a genuine concern that even The Limelight’s high-spec L’Acoustics PA system would crumble under the un-hinged sonic punishing that was provided by the group. People speak of metal bands with extreme guitar-tones but those subservient & well-tamed timbres are no contest for the extreme sub-lows and rippingly harsh dissonances I heard coming from the stage during Girl Band’s set. What’s better is that there were no big, beastly drum fills to contest the power of the guitars but rather a restrained pattering of the kit, providing motorik rhythms throughout the songs; sometimes even without a snare drum being hit. Subversion at its best.
Bursting through a flurry of tracks including their singles “Lawman” and “De Bom Bom”, very little between-song chatter was provided by vocalist Dara Kiely, perhaps this was to prepare us for the extreme lack of said ‘chatter’ during the following set by Slint.
Beginning their set with an understated build, Slint set the tone for their whole show as if to let audience know that the band are equally as likely to cater the crowd with peaceful quietude as they are feedback-inducing loudness. The stage set-up for the band well represented the unconventional hierarchy of the instruments in their recordings – with the Britt Walford’s drum kit off to stage-left and Brian McMahan’s lead-vocal duties taking place stage-right, with the man looking towards The Limelight’s wall more than the audience.
It became clear not long into the show that this music will always belong to the domain of these friends and their relationships with one another, taking no real heed of the crowd that they have rapt in attention, waiting with baited breath between each song whilst soft-spoken McMahan utters a few delicate words. This music originated from a basement in Louisville, KY and, while it may have slowly reached a gigantic audience over two decades, it was never devised with any grandiose assumptions in mind. I would argue that this is what set Slint’s performance aside from any other band that reunites to play music from a twenty-three year-old record. What is usually an extremely perverse and disconcerting thing to watch is instead done by these post-rock pioneers with grace and consideration.
Frankly, I’m excited to see the group that opens for Girl Band in twenty-three years time. Chris Ryan, GiggingNI.com