As good as a nice cup of tea, and a sit down.

Tuesday 4 May 2010

Bear in Heaven/Juffage, Brudenell Social Club, 25th April.

A quiet Sunday evening, you’ve got to get ready for work. The last thing you’d think of partaking in would be a mad sensory overload, yet here one comes this evening at the Brudenell.
Take Juffage for instance: this bearded chap washed up Leeds some time last year from Chicago, and he may be gone pretty soon from what I hear, so time is of the essence. I urge you to go see him; his shows will leave you slack-jawed in wonder.
To start with, he’s got an almost bizarre amount of technical skill. He doesn’t so much as play his songs as create them right in front of you. Instruments are picked up and discarded again like detachable limbs, interspersed with fuzz and static and at the very centre of it, a driving rhythm.
But what of the songs, you cry! It’s all very well to be experimental, but you need a few melodies. Well, the songs are fine and lovely. Channeling 90s alt. guitar with deep, bluesy vocals, he makes the most of his roomful of equipment. At the end of the set, he places three boom boxes around the room and sets them going, creating a layered harmony that swirls around the whole room. Yes, boom boxes. Magical stuff!

Photograph by Hannah-Rachel Sunderland
There’s a little sense of smugness which pervades in going to see a band like Bear in Heaven in such an intimate setting, like if you’re privy to a great bit of gossip. Praise for the album, Beast Rest Forth Mouth, could not be higher, but tonight’s medium-sized crowd suggests they’re not international superstars just yet. Judging on this performance, success has to be imminent for them. It simply wouldn’t be fair for a band like this to drop off the radar.

Photograph by Hannah-Rachel Sunderland
I was hoping that songs like ‘Wholehearted Mess’ would translate well live, but even my expectations can’t prepare me for how good their set is. The proggy hum which accompanies the album saturates the air, drawing you in to an irresistible, unstoppable groove. Vocalist Jon Philpot’s vocals soar over the melodies and they have a drummer who could give Phil Collins a run for his money. By the pounding outro of ‘Casual Goodbye,’ my central nervous system is pleasantly jellified.
Bear in Heaven could fill rooms a lot bigger than the Brudenell with such exquisite noise. If they are capable of reducing hardened, cynical music writers to quivering wrecks then surely mountain moving is next on the agenda.

A BIG thanks to Hannah-Rachel for the fantastic photos.

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