Slug Guts, Blank Realm @ Step Inn (06.02.09)

This was a show supporting the legendary Guru Guru, plus Sydney bands Dead Farmers and Circle Pit (who were all varying degrees of good-to-great) as well as a collaboration between Candlesnuffer, Joel Stern and Robert McManus (at least I think those were the three collaborators), but true to BH form we're just going to concentrate on the two Brisbane acts.

Blank Realm are a band who I've always appreciated but not often enjoyed to the extent that some other people do. Their kraut-influenced ambient rock has somehow never really connected with me, and I'm not totally sure what the reason is. Perhaps it's because music of this sort requires an effectively hypnotic rhythm section, and whenever I've seen them in the past this element has been somewhat absent. Friday night's set finally contained this vital ingredient, and so it was the first time that the band had really held my attention throughout a set - the grooves moved past being merely repetitive to being entrancing, largely thanks to the bassist and a more consistent performance from the drummer than I've seen in other Blank Realm sets. They moved between relatively traditional guitar based grooves and more abstract ambient segments made up largely of droning feedback and various synthetic noises - I think there may have been an infinite loop mixer that the drummer played in these sections. Over it all (or perhaps under it all, more accurately) the singer non-verbally moaned vaguely in pitch, providing more of another layer of atmosphere than a melody or a focal point. It suits the band.

(It's perhaps worth mentioning that they played one song that had a guitar part that sounded almost exactly like the verse from The Screaming Jets' 'Better', which raised a few smiles from various crowd members)

Although Slug Guts have been around for a while now, this was actually my first time seeing the band (I skipped out on the guerilla show they put on at the Village Twin last year), so they were probably as much of a draw for me as Guru Guru and Dead Farmers were. Featuring members of OnOxx, Frou Frou Foxes and Loomer, one might expect Slug Guts to utilize a fairly 'angular' post punk sound. One would be correct in having such an expectation, though that's not to say that Slug Guts are unsurprising at all. Instead of the stabbing dissonance of the previously mentioned bands, Slug Guts head in a more swampy blues direction, complete with vocalist Jimi K yowling like some demented baritone feline. With the rhythm nailed down by the huge bass and powerful drumming, the two guitarists provided corrosive treble smothered in reverb (like Steve Albini with a whammy bar) - the effect being reminiscent of defunct Melbourne act The Bird Blobs. It's an instantly compelling sound, and the band have their shit down to the degree that such music requires - this stuff doesn't work unless it's tight, and thankfully Slug Guts seem to realise this.

Of course, tightness should not be confused with being 'polished'. Slug Guts are not polished, they are rough and raw. Their set was filled with technical issues, mostly related to the bass - I believe they restarted the first song 5 times, each time making it no further than 30 seconds in before the bass cut out again. After trying all manner of fixes they eventually got it to work, and then they were off. The set was moderately short (I don't know if it was shortened at all due to the aforementioned bass problems, though I suspect probably not), which worked in their favour. At times some of the songs seemed overly similar, usually keeping the same tempo and using similar structures - there were occasions where I couldn't tell if the band had started a new song or if they'd merely put a 5 second break into the middle of the previous one. It didn't matter a huge deal though, as the sound they put together was interesting enough to keep my attention. When they did change things up a bit it worked in their favour, so hopefully they'll add a degree of variety to their set as they continue. At this stage though, they're still a pretty entertaining band.