[sic] Magazine

Volcano! & Support Live at Glasgow Arches

Reviewed by Michael Henaghan

Bonfire Night may have hit Glasgow the week before, but some fireworks were certainly saved for this gig in the city’s famous Arches venue, headlined by Americans Volcano! who capped off a night of the good, the bad and the downright absurd.

Absurd doesn’t even begin to describe Edinburgh trio Super Adventure Club (6) , but more of that later. Sonically, they’re a twisted amalgam of Deerhoof, Sonic Youth and dEUS, backed by chaotic no-wave vocal yelps. Tracks such as “Tommy Sheridan” (a ‘tribute’ to Scotland’s shamed Socialist MP) particularly shone especially when the band locked in to a whirlwinding groove. Undoubtedly though, the star of the Adventure Club experience is the bizarre half-man/half horse dancer they employ which needs to be seen to be believed!

Glaswegian octet Punch & the Apostles (8) faired even better, with this collective encompassing everything that is great about the New Weird Caledonia movement (you heard it here first!). Like Van Der Graaf Generator partying with A Hawk and a Hacksaw in a smoky Swing club, the likes of lead single ‘I’m A Hobo’ are so choc full of life, melody and passion that you cannot help but be won over by the sheer exuberance of it all. Definite ‘ones to watch’.

This is not what can be said of How to Swim (4) . Another Scots ensemble, I stopped counting at 11 members but there could have easily been more. Though The Arches soundsystem struggled to cope with the amount going on, on stage, How to Swim also struggled to put in a cohesive, convincing performance. Featuring an over-bearing, helium voiced frontman and far too many instruments than really needed, this reviewer would suggest they lose a few personnel. After all do you really need a keyboardist, flutist and violinist when you already have a brass section? Don’t get me wrong I love watching large collective bands and have witnessed many before. From Efterklang to Arcade Fire and Polyphonic Spree to A Silver Mt Zion, who have all passed through Glasgow over the last few years – some on this very stage. The difference, and it is a crucial factor, they all allow their music to breathe. How To Swim, on the other hand, smother the audience in indulgent musicianship like a high school band where every member fights to be heard over the other. This culminated in a shambolic closing number, which came across as out of sync and sadly even out of tune. Back to the drawing board.

Lessons, though, can be learned from the magnificent Volcano! (9) . With an excellent sophomore record (“Paper Work”) on the Leaf Label under their belts this trio dished out extra helpings of expert musicianship with drummer Sam Scranton on incredible form. Simply one of the best percussive performances I’ve ever viewed, Scranton even managed to incorporate some glockenspiel into his jazz-inflected style. Other times he hit his kit with such power and precision it sounded like a freight train. The jagged, stop-start dynamics of “Sweet Tooth”, “Fairy Tale” and “ 78 Oil Crisis” had many of the crowd indulging in bouts of spasmodic dancing, while the slight reggae vibe of “Africa Just Wants Have Fun” allowed frontman/guitarist Aaron With to display his powerful falsetto range as buzzing electronics and bass whizzed around the venue. An outstanding display of inventiveness, audacity and musicianship and while this Chicago troupe bear some resemblance to fellow Yanks Dirty Projectors, on this form they’re peerless.