Our editor told me to use the word ‘magic’ in this review, so that’s that over with. Wand are a 4-piece from LA who are about to release their 3rd album in the space of 14 months. ‘Ganglion Reef’, on Ty Segall’s God? label, showcased an impressive, unique blend of psych, prog and folk rock. In The Red released their 2nd album ‘Golem’ in March, where the guitars are much heavier than before, on a record that sounds closer to Ty’s recent work. Experimentation with sonic bloops and bleeps appear to have taken over, somewhat, in a return (of sorts) to God? associated label Drag City Records. ‘1000 Days’ is only a fortnight away.

Quite frankly, I’m struggling to think of a guitarist who has completely blown my mind as much as frontman Cory Thomas Hanson did tonight. He’s played with Meatbodies and Together PANGEA, as well as releasing his own electronic work under the name White. Onstage in this, their first ever Manchester gig, he reminds me of Suede’s singer Brett Anderson, combined with Bernard Butler’s energetic and skilled axe wielding. Their hurried soundcheck, following a late dash from the van with their equipment after a 6music session with Marc Riley, draws applause and whoops from this basement venue that’s full of expectant admirers. Apparently, they’ve only got 1 hour before they’re replaced by a disco… we really are back in the 70’s.

The sound is perfect, under challenging circumstances; the band flip between paisley folk harmonies and ear piercing wall-of-noise at the drop of a hat. Cory nonchalantly stabs at his Mopho x4 keyboard between windmill guitar strumming and flirtations with his amp. Despite looking as though he’s arrived direct from a casual office job, he manages to own the stage with his undoubted skill and showmanship. One minute, they’re delicately picking at muted strings while Evan Burrows teases his drum kit like a jazz musician, and before you can blink, Cory has stomped on his effects pedal, igniting all manor of ridiculously loud and impressive sounds from his Fender. His whammy bar drops to the floor at one point, along with our jaws.

Would you believe, Cory abandons his guitar to play keys on new tune ‘Stolen Footsteps’, which is not dissimilar to his solo work. It’s 80’s electro enough to remind me of Gary Numan. “Stealing Intuition ’cause your life is such a bore”. After hearing this on Drag City’s website, I had to double check that this wasn’t a completely different band. ‘Dungeon Dropper’ is more of a compromise between the contrasting styles, but still, it’s moving in a direction that I would personally prefer they did not take.

‘Self Hypnosis in 3 Days’ is a highlight, along with ‘Melted Rope’ and the spiralling riffs of ‘Cave In’ and ‘Floating Head’… basically, most of ‘Golem’ stands out. They manage to raise the bar even further in the finale with ‘Fire On The Mountain (I-II-III)’ leading to a superb instrumental that runs 10 minutes over their allotted time.

Wand’s first two albums are incredibly strong, and a promise that they would play a load of new material tonight seemed to dissipate, possibly due to the crowds reactions, or maybe just time restrictions. The control that Cory has over the sounds that his guitar were producing was mind-boggling, and drummer Evan Burrows more than held his own. If ‘1000 Days’ proves too electro for the dedicated rock followers, no doubt we’ll only have to wait  another 5 or 6 months before the next album.

WAND Official 

Peter Rea

I like to go see fresh new music at Manchester's superb selection of smaller venues, and then share my enthusiasm.