Tie-dye enthusiasts rejoice: Psychedelia is back. Truth is, it never really went away and follows the same ebbs and flows of popularity as any genre. The key difference now is that the movement is celebrated.

Since the first Austin Psych Fest in May 2008, music inspired (directly or indirectly) by mind-altering substances has gathered global momentum. Local promoter Dots & Loops leave no stone unturned in their pursuit to provide Manchester with the finest psych-rock around and tonight is no exception.

Despite their name sounding something you might see pop up on a Soccer Saturday vidiprinter alongside the scoreline ‘Gillingham 1-0 Bristol City’, Carlton Melton are a space-rock trio from California who, according to their website, specialise in ‘live, loud, improvised, experimental, instrumental, psychedelic music’. They go on to describe their music as ‘not for everyone’ which somehow straddles the line between humble and egotistic but seeing as we’re talking about fifteen minute instrumentals that sound as if they were made with the interior of TV21 in mind, then I’d say it was probably a fair warning.

In line with most space-rock gigs, Carlton Melton begin proceedings with a guitar noodling intro which is fairly indistinguishable from tuning up. This welds seamlessly into ‘Sarsen’, a 10 minute krautrock frenzy, complete with motorik beat and pulsing bass line.

It is unfortunate but understandable that the three piece do not keep up the relentless pace of the opener. When the band slow the tempo they offer a feeling of cosmic exploration but these moments last a little longer than is advisable. Entire passages of the show pass with little direction, and once attentive attendees are now found chatting.

Before long it becomes clear that Carlton Melton have two settings; direct or drifting. It is when they look to kick it out they are at their best and in doing so it is drummer Andy Duvall who is the driving force of the band. His precision is marvellous, and all the more impressive for his Animal-From-The-Muppets-style ferocity. Add to that he shares a hair/beard combo with fellow (imaginary) Californian resident The Dude and a new favourite drummer is found.

Highlight of the night is ‘Keeping On’ which showcases everything that is excellent about Carlton Melton. Duvall’s drumming again sounds enormous, hammering away with the tenacity expected from an eighties rock show. Amid the thunderous beat is a wailing guitar and eerie synth sounds which would not be out of place in a b-movie. The result is a cacophony of psychedelic influences mesmerising those in attendance.

True to their word, Carlton Melton provide ‘live, loud, improvised, experimental, instrumental, psychedelic music’. With confidence they can add ‘brilliant’ to the list.

Carlton Melton  Official | Facebook | Myspace

Joseph Curran

Features Editor and gig reviewer