REVIEW: Girls Names – The Empire Music Hall, Belfast
It was the release of their much anticipated new album Arms Around A Vision, a wonderfully multifarious album consisting of twelve tracks, each unique and complex in its own right, yet intrinsically linked.
The Empire, an intimate and Victorian style setting, was the perfect venue for the unveiling of the bands 5th studio album. The band, consisting of the moody Cathal Cully on vocals, brazen bassist Claire Miskimmin, guitarist Philip Quinn and Gib Cassidy on drums, took to the stage after local band Documenta began the night.
The set kicked off with “Reticence” the first track from the album, with its distinctive minute long intro of haranguing, clanging thrashed dissonance, immediately there was an instant buzz about the crowd. The first three songs of the evening were all taken from the 2015 album, “Desire Oscillations” and “Málaga”, both tracks with reverb-soaked vocals echoing over a delightfully dark mix of instrumentation and perfectly crafted synth to give a result worthy of Ian Curtis or any of the post punk greats that have come before. This was all in all an ideal beginning and way to cement the first impressions of the new album to be nothing but good.
These tracks were then followed by another 2015 track not included on the new album, “Zero Triptych”. It is a track that echoes the whirring post punk feel of their previous album The New Life and has the greatness of the anthemic 2012 track “Hypnotic Regression”. The opening bars of this track sent a murmur of excitement through the crowd, as the band remained cool, unfazed by the crowds reactions throughout, only stopping briefly to say a few words of thanks after every couple of songs.
“Chrome Rose” resonated throughout the crowd next, a wonderfully hypnotic track that thrives on its repetitiveness with its cyclical drum beats, bass lines and sinister electronic tinges. Tracks “Dysmorphia” and the widely popular “Hunger Artist” followed swiftly, all of which clearly demonstrating the most noticeable feature of the new album, the newly emphasised vocals of Cully. His cathartic vocals on previous albums were perhaps overlooked under the prominent instrumentals and synths of past tracks, but this new album fully exemplifies the power of his effortlessly moody and haunting vocals.
It was the next track that sent the crowd into an uproar, be it the most mellow uproar that could be imagined, but nonetheless an uproar. The echoing sound of the first few bars of “Hypnotic Regression” sounded, a definite crowd favourite and possibly Girls Names most defining track. The four minute track filled the crowd and was met with an extremely warm welcome. The band finished on synth filled “Exploit Me”, a track that is heavy and beguiling to listen to, and the wonderfully gloomy “I Was You”, which is also the ending track of the album.
It was a night filled with enchantingly dark music with an intelligent yet moody edge, emphasised with the lethargic vocals of Cully, the distinctive and requisite bass of Miskimmin and idiosyncratic synth. For fans of Girls Names, this was not to be missed. Maria Macfarlane, GiggingNI.com