Anton Newcombe photo by L Crowley

Anton Newcombe photo by L Crowley


Brian Jonestown Massacre’s Anton Newcombe and London-based Canadian songwriter Tess Parks released a collaborative album I Declare Nothing earlier this month and have coupled the release with some live dates. Out on Newcombe’s own label, A Recordings, it has been causing rather a stir in the psychedelic minded community.

The project came to fruition when the pair met up in Berlin early last year, with a few demos mulling around for a while the album release was hotly anticipated and did not disappoint in its delivery.

Six take to the stage for the live version, and the set begins with album opener ‘Wehmut’. The haunting track which strikes back in places to ‘Open Heart Surgery’ by BJM is a fantastic track to open as it shows the vocal prowess of Tess in all her glory. The repetition in the guitar riffs before the synth comes into being has the crowd swaying along nicely and already they have begun to shift forward to observe more closely.

‘Cocaine Cat’ which was their Record Store Day 2015 release comes next. Anton’s guitar skills are shown off magnificently in this track and it is no wonder this duo have been attracting attention. The synth comes through well here and its presence adds an interesting live edge to the track. This ultimately is a very simply put together song, there are no complicated elements marring the beauty of it and this in itself, is genius.

Tess addresses the audience in her finest Mancunian accent, and whilst some of the crowd wonder what is going on, those who know her know that she genuinely loves Manchester and its people and this is an endearment to that sentiment. It’s nice to see that she remembers those who have supported her. The tempo is picked up as ‘German Tangerine’ resounds and is the next key song on our route through this set. Tess’ voice on this track is quite simply breath taking and its intensity silences the crowd who are quite simply in awe.

‘Gone’ is also a powerful track live and the crowd are really getting into it now. The first real presence of Anton’s vocals is on this one and the crowd woop in all the right places. The album is very mellow and dream-like in its recorded state, but live it certainly knows how to pack a punch. It’s a great adaptation and their approach suits both needs; it shows how much they care about the music they have created. This is not some tracks they have churned out without due thought and attention.

‘Mama’, the B-side to the Record Store Day release, offers a haunting acoustic guitar riff with suitably drawled out vocals and an ensnaring drum beat. Again, live this comes across much stronger than the recorded version. ‘Voyage de l’ame’ has a somewhat different feel but still comes across well, lets face it – they haven’t hit a bad note yet. The crowd are really getting into it now, dancing around happily to the musical talent on display and loving every minute of it. Anton remains mostly the silent enigma in this line up, but his contribution can be doubted by no one.

Tess Parks photo by L Crowley

Tess Parks photo by L Crowley

‘Meliorist’ is quite possibly the track of the set and although this may be an unlikely choice for some, this track is quite simply impossibly catchy. The three guitars churn out the repeated riff, the tapped rhythm section gets the heads bobbing and the synth enchants in the background. The live version is once again manipulated, it is extended and Anton adds a harmonica section into the fray. The overall effect is much more intense than that on the album but it won’t be forgotten in a hurry, that’s if anyone can get it out of their heads at all.

The set mellows out somewhat and churns through ‘Friendlies’ and ‘Talkin’ About the Weather’ before the set is concluded with a fantastic cover of The Doors ‘Five to One’. The intensity on stage is what drives this one and although somewhat different from the source material, it’s executed with precision and clarity and gets the room dancing – which I think is the intended effect. As it draws to a close the crowd undoubtedly want more, but unfortunately we are not treated to an encore on this occasion.

On reflection, it becomes apparent that they have actually played the full album here tonight. This in itself is a rare thing and I congratulate them for having the audacity to do it. Having seen Tess live a number of times in the last few years in Manchester with just her and a guitar on stage, it is clear how far she has come. The sound suits and it is a privilege to watch her embrace a band performance whilst losing none of the edge that we have come to know and love.

This collaboration has been an undoubted success, the quality of both the album and the live performance are second to none and many are very glad that this partnership came into being.

Tess Parks Facebook | Twitter | Tumblr / Anton Newcombe Twitter | Official (BJM)

Lover of all things psych and shoegaze and the mind behind Astral Elevator; constantly seeking new musical experiences in a world full of noise.