I wasn’t too sure what to expect this evening at the Deaf Institute. I get the impression that the point of Psychedelic Horseshit’s lo-fi pop, or ‘shitgaze’ as the band has pleasantly christened it, is that the music is more important than the presentation. Recording most of their records on low-tech equipment in living rooms and basements, I was attracted to its honesty; there were no secrets in its production. The reason this made me nervous is because I had no idea how this would translate to the stage. But something is amiss this evening – and by something I mean someone.

According to singer/guitarist Matt Whitehurst, the band is of no fixed size when it comes to gigs. I was aware that they have a chequered past when it comes to bassists, but thought that there were at least two constant members. I was led to believe the standard setup would be Matt, playing guitar, synths and singing, a bassist of some description and the drummer, Rich Johnston, but this is apparently not the case today.

Matt wanders on stage accompanied by Nicole Bland, who positions herself in front of an array of electronic devices on a table, Matt does the same to the right of her but with guitar in hand. There are a number of noises and beeps, which I first assume are some kind of soundcheck, but seem to fall into an intro of sorts. I realise now, for whatever reason, that these two are the full line-up for tonight.

The first song is ‘Laced’, which is the title track from the recent debut album.  It starts off with large synthesized swells and electronically static beats, juxtaposed in a fairly pleasant way against the grungy guitar coming from Matt’s amp. The song is thick and dirty, and I get the feeling that layering textures is the objective here, as opposed to melody crafting and harmony. This is not inherently a bad thing, but needs work to be done well. Everything seems to sound a little muddy and there is not much separation in the sounds. I’m not sure whether this is a problem at the venue or with the band themselves, or if it’s deliberate. Is this some attempt at being lo-fi live? Do I just not ‘get’ the sound? It’s becoming confusing from the off.

There is a change in the sound signifying we are into a new song, and I’m quite impressed with the transition. The two of them do a fairly good job of blending the end of ‘Laced’ into the next track ‘Failure to Dim’ which starts with a heavier, more dance influenced 4-on-the-floor style. Choppy guitar cuts in and out and there is a synth choir sound that does well to emphasise Matt’s vocal melody. It follows straight into ‘Another Side’, almost turning double-time as chirps and beeps triggered by Bland compliment a change of tempo and drum beat style. I don’t know if it is just me but I can’t see much difference apart from the rhythm in this song from the previous track  – thick synthetic noises with fast thrashy guitar and everything being pushed into one sonic element, a mush of noise in which the ingredients can end up being difficult to pick out.

The next song is starting but the crossover is not as smooth as it has been – again, maybe this is something that I’m not ‘hip’ enough to understand, but there seems to be an unpleasant contrast in rhythms. Whilst this is going on, the guitar is put on the floor in front of the amplifier and promptly starts ringing with feedback, although Matt notices shortly afterwards and rectifies the problem. The new song is called ‘Beach’ and seems to be quite an eclectic mix of noise, some of which are very pleasant and add a good feeling of variety to the textures, but some, to my ears, sound on the verge of manic stabs of anything and everything. This is particularly evident as Bland at one point is seemingly hitting a small keyboard randomly. This is probably deliberate, but feels almost like it needs more practice to sound that way; there is a fine line between hectic genius and hit and miss random noise addition and I’m not sure where this lands. ‘Punk Chix’ is more of the same but interest is added slightly with a kind of soaring pad that slices through the mix every so often, a welcome relief from the thick mid-range mix still filling the backdrop.

‘Rat Poison’ is the penultimate song of the set, and has a slightly different mood to the songs before it. The intro is a heavy hip-hop sounding beat with deep resonant bass booms, complimented by Matt’s vocals and the stabbing and thrashing of the guitar. The song incorporates the same high swelling as in ‘Punk Chix’ which definitely adds to the flow of the gig, and this appears to me to be one of the stronger songs, which happens to be centred around the guitar more. There is a solo guitar section, where Matt mixes stabs and pulls with fairly attractive melody; could this be the effect they were trying to achieve earlier? The keyboard sections in ‘Beach’ seem a bit less odd now, as I feel like I have gained some sort of compositional context.

‘Rat Poison’ ends oddly, and I get the feeling that all may not be well onstage. There is a brief moment of what seems like panic on the face of Matt, who has so far not seemed to show much emotion at all. Buttons are pressed, a Macbook is opened and things seem to fall back into place, but there is a new feeling in the air. Confidence has been lost. At the start of the gig, not many people had gathered. I assumed this would change as the evening progressed but here we are, at the start of the last song and there are still only around 15 people stood at the edges of the floor. ‘Easy Seas’ gets going with the thick and sometimes muddy texture we are all quite familiar with now, and the line “This ‘aint easy” can be heard through the noise, which feels strangely apt in the context. They’ve had to work hard tonight, as it must of felt quite difficult to keep the attention of the audience who, to me, were just not that into it.

There is definitely something to be said about the ideas in Psychedelic Horseshit’s set tonight. I like how raw the guitar is. Matt’s vocals are decidedly groaning and laboured, but in the best possible way. I’m just not sure about this fluid band set up – maybe, if the drummer (who Matt told me is currently “meditating in the mountains”…) had been there, and the gig had a more analogue angle I would have enjoyed it. The electronic reinvention of the set and the fact it pretty much seemed to be a quick fix for a lack of members left me feeling almost as if I had missed out on something, and that they were just not giving everything they could.

There were some things I enjoyed about tonight, but I’m not going to tell you that they weren’t having problems. It wasn’t complete horseshit – it was just two of them.

News Editor for Silent Radio. Studying Music Technology and Audio Systems at the University of Huddersfield. Quite likes music.