Well. Soup Kitchen. It’s a pleasure to meet you at last. I stand a few yards from your doors at five-ish most nights waiting for the bus to take me home and frequently wonder what the venue within is like. And now I know. You’re ace. Bare, flakey-paint walls and all. Almost über-Northern Quarter. A bit tatty round the edges, quirky, quietly trendy and with an overwhelming sense of bonhomie.
Which might be slightly at odds with the intensity of support band Cyril Snear. One of those secretsManchesterseems to like to keep to itself, Cyril Snear have been bubbling away in the underground for a while now, heirs to the likes of other local arch-experimentalists Oceansize and Amplifier. It’s a terrific and heavy noise they whirl up at times, seemingly shy of repeating the same chord sequence twice on the run, all three guitarists studiously contorting their fingers into all manner of complicated shapes on their guitar necks. They’re perhaps an odd choice of support band (after all, in less than an hours time, there will be a man playing a banjo on that stage) but they coax a warm response from the respectable crowd that has gathered round them by the end of their set. I’m left with a blurred vision of what you might have if The Mars Volta, Mogwai and Radiohead were genetically modified into one Mancunian monster. In short; nice one.
Public Service Broadcasting (let’s go with PSB, shall we?) is the enigmatically named J. Willgoose Esq. (stringed instruments and assorted electronica) and Wrigglesworth (live drums), in their words “teaching the lessons of the past through the music of the future”. In summary that largely means marrying samples from old public service videos to twenty first century electronic/organic pop, the fruits of which culminated earlier this year in the stellar ‘War Room EP’. Anyone listening to BBC’s 6 Music for more than a cursory half hour around the end of May could not have failed to have caught the EP’s lead-off track, ‘Spitfire’ and it’s surely exposure of that ilk that means this Manchester ‘transmission’ sold out over a week in advance.
Turns out the PSB live show is a genuinely mesmerising multi-media experience. Black and white films accompany – and, crucially, compliment – each tune. J. Willgoose is a whirlwind of orchestration, layering up loops and loops of beats and basslines and overlayering them with juddering guitar riffs, clanging chords and, occasionally, twangs on that aforementioned banjo. Tracks from ‘The War Room’ give the set tonight its backbone, ‘Spitfire’ in particular a highlight with its insistent motorik rhythm underpinning the weary defiance of its narrator.
The thing with these multi-media shows is that sometimes they can be a bit clean, a bit clinical. But the PSB version has clearly been crafted with care, warmth and – dare we say it – humour. Neither musician interacts directly with the crowd, leaving it to a disembodied computerised voice – “Thank. You… Man.Ches.Terrrr”. The synchrony of the music to the visuals is breathtaking at times. The next time I see a gang of snotty kids thrashing out their 3 chord re-hashes of everything that has gone before, how ever good they are, I might just be reminded of the detail that has gone into the hour on show tonight.
The set culminates with earlier 2012 single ‘ROYGBIV’ (computer: “This. Will. Be. Our. Final. Sonnng.”), once again all samples of clipped Queen’s English over banjos and beats, the extended coda veering dangerously/deliciously close to rave territory. Willgoose and Wrigglesworth conspire not to leave the stage before delivering an encore of next single ‘Everest’, winding one last time into a hynotising crescendo. There’s just time for a warning from the computer – “Remember: if you do not have a TV licence, you will be found” – and they’re off, and so are we. Genuinely inventive and doing things their own way – perhaps Soup Kitchen, Cyril Snear and Public Service Broadcasting aren’t so different after all.