More like the picket line of a minors strike than a gig; Bellows of thick smoke, rising from behind a middle-aged wall of army surplus bomber jackets and heavy trench coats, swamped the Yorkshire air. Yet, no tyres were alight and there wasn’t a placard to be seen, merely the chemical haze of hissing roll-ups and expelled breath as both met the cruel, cold air of an unforgiving winter evening at the Brudenell, Leeds.
Yes, Old Blighty rocks in the insidious cradle of a Tory government once more but the crowd had no protest in mind, only a mission, to join legendary Londoner’s Loop and corrosive counterparts The KVB in raising the venue to the ground. A feat duly achieved.
Fresh off the back of curating the last ever ATP festival, it’d be ludicrous to say that tonight didn’t belong to Loop and it’s a good job they’re still smoking, as in a whirlwind of sonic mayhem The KVB would’ve quite easily stolen the thunder as they set about branding the souls of all in attendance with a dystopian musical tattoo.
Opening with ‘Shadows’, one of the standout tracks from 2013’s Immaterial visions, couldn’t have been more apt, as a shade of dark glory immediately descended after the first chords of Nicholas Wood’s guitar intro resonated throughout the old social club. No sooner than the onlookers could fathom what internal issues ‘Shadows’ had forced them to confront, in a spurt of florid psychosis, fitting with the seizure-inducing light show, we were subject to the biology altering distortion riddled rendition of ‘Something inside’, from then on in The KVB made it clear that no respite would be afforded for as long as they held the stage.
After touring Ukraine recently, the penetrative pair must have been possessed by the country’s cold communist past as songs such as ‘leaning’ and ‘live or die’ allude to having crawled, bloody nosed from underneath the iron curtain. I can only imagine what harrowing memories may have been recalled by some members of the eastern European crowd as by the time the Joy Division-esque ‘Again & Again’ rang out ferocious flashbacks of my own were rife, such is the power of The KVB.
If Nick plays like a man reaching the end of his tether then Kat Day must be the antithesis; suggestive of soporific influence, she meddles with electronic effects in the demeanour and expression of a body quelled by generous doses of Valium, though the sounds emitted scream more amphetamine overload than anything else. Experienced live, it’s these factors that add to the artistic ambiguity already oozing from the duo like sap from a bleeding tree.
To close their assault on the senses (a more relevant and deserved description than a set), ‘Lines’ was the weapon of choice. Tame in comparison to what had come before, the finale provided a platform for contemplation and as the dust settled with the last faded synth conflicting emotions were ignited.
Beautiful, sinister, sultry and sadistic, in parts tender yet in others terrifying, the soundtrack to a nightmare and equally an erotic dream, humbling but empowering, warped like a doomed romance is magnetising. Certainly astonishing, The KVB are not for fragile minds, or maybe that’s exactly who they’re for?
Before any such questions could be even partially answered the opening exchanges of ‘Sound Head’ seared the mesh of the Marshall amps to an extent that I swear I could see a flame. As much a statement of intent as symbolic, Loop had finally come back around and the scores of body’s cavorting in manic ecstasy knew it.
For those that don’t know, Loop had been knocking around for some time, a few lineup changes, new projects (I must mention ‘Take Control’ by Hair And Skin Trading Company) and solo jaunts eventually brought the brand to a halt after their third, and often deemed finest, studio LP ‘Gilded Eternity’ back in the ’90s. The recent tour and festival appearances have been billed as their big return but to be honest none of the tedious PR shit mattered post the first tune; you become totally immersed in the cacophony waves made by the famed four-piece, it’s like Loop had never been away or maybe we hadn’t let go, either way, the rock and roll line had been cast and the crowd were already fiendishly hooked.
Marauding through a best-of set of songs which titles magically manage to describe what they do to the listener, openers ‘The Nail Will Burn’ and ‘Straight To Your Heart’ had me reeling in a suspended state of angst, the loose bass guitar of the latter especially gripping as it plods powerfully down your ear like a man set on murder while Robert Hampson’s raucous lead, reminiscent of a few stooges numbers, works on provoking the dormant anarchist, it’s a strange sensation though as all the while fists may be clenched Loop are equally enchanting, like sinister shaman they lull you into a droning and hypnotic false sense of security, exemplified by the premature breakdown of ‘Straight To Your Heart’, before wickedly (in both senses of the word) tearing you right back out again.
As masterpieces like ‘Fade Out’ flew round the room I couldn’t help but think of the influence Loop probably had on a younger Richard Ashcroft – the echoed vocal, heavy rhythm and dense drums all combining to the same sensational spacey psychedelia apparent in early verve efforts such as ‘The Sun The Sea’, the only difference being Loop’s bites carry more venom. A lot more.
Exchanging tracks with the audience like a mismatched boxing bout, Hampson and his musically turbulent troupe tore through ‘Too Real’, ‘Fix’ and ‘Fever Knife’ in the incisive and dangerous way the tale of the latter song tells. Adrenal glands galvanised and the flames of passion-fueled, by the time the last aquatic wail of set closer ‘Burning World’ had ceased I wish the crowd did have a few political contentions to conquer, the pitiful pinstriped clad powers that be wouldn’t have stood a chance!
It was more than a pleasure to catch one of the best bands of the present play with one of the finest of recent past and this experience, as it shall so rightly be named, was up there with the Fall, Eagulls and Autobahn gigs of recent months. Exceptional.
Loop continue their tour of the UK before landing in Austin to play the psyche fest in May, while The KVB head out to Australia this week to support The Brian Jonestown Massacre, local natives and former Far Out album of the week holders, Day Ravies.