By: Dave Brooks
New River Studios, London | September 25, 2016
“Upset, angered and terrified” by the influx of racial assaults that have continued to trail June 23rd’s divisive Brexit vote, Teeth of the Sea’s Sam Barton refuses to wallow in helplessness. Determined to counter the political apathy that sparked the whole brouhaha, Barton and his TotS bandmates responded with Unity, a day of live music to raise some cash for anti-hatred organisation Hope Not Hate. Dave Brooks made his way down to Stamford Hill’s New River Studios to check out their headline set.
It’s almost a year since Teeth of the Sea released their galloping fourth installment Highly Deadly Black Tarantula. Plating together a snarling combo of sinister Kraut disco, blaring post-industrial electronics, and itchy-fingered Morricone brass, HDBT had all the makings of a Coil-penned Tekken soundtrack. But there’s no disputing that there’s more to this four-piece than mere button-bashing.
Mike Bourne’s theremin conjurings kick off proceedings, quickly floating en arrière scène to underpin Jimmy Martin’s squalled distortion. Barton interjects with lustily garbled trumpet, before the intrusive clang of HDBT’s splintered opener ‘All My Venom’ slams into recognition. Barton switches to a lusty South American battle call, defiantly navigating Martin’s stray twangs as drummer and vocalist Mat Colegate prepares to enter the fray. Unleashing a pummelling drum sequence and spitting out demonic glottal rattles, Colegate rallies an architectural crescendo that pairs a 28 Days Later paranoia with pure amphetamine fury.
As ‘All My Venom’ builds to a climax, it becomes clear that something’s wrong. Sound levels go awry, beats are missed and hands wave frantically to the sound desk. A busted band-facing PA is promptly replaced, and Bourne and Colegate take to the toms to usher in ‘Animal Manservant’’s retching clop. As Barton riffs on hard disco voluntaries, Bourne’s Tangerine Dream synths bleed into violent modular glitches. A charged, confrontational ferocity builds; the preceding technical shortcomings a catalyst for greater fury, sinew, and violence.
Still, something’s not right. Recently celebrating their tenth birthday, TotS are suitably well-rehearsed to know what fits where. But ongoing PA troubles are making hard work of it. With much of their electronic kit affected, the band revert to a more manual form of post-psychedelia, the blistering highlight coming when Barton dons his bass to steer into ‘A.C.R.O.N.Y.M.’’s driving Krauty slug. The defining moment of their 2010 album Your Mercury, this punishing cosmic romp is the perfect floor for Jimmy Martin to unleash a scorching post-rock blitz. Matching swooped onslaughts with extra-terrestrial tapping, he spearheads a Radiophonic bombardment fit for the Doctor himself.
Fortune didn’t favour Teeth of the Sea today. But when presented with unwarranted adversity, they came out snarling and harnessed. As Unity has acknowledged, society as a whole is facing far greater hurdles than a busted PA. Ever the iconoclasts, Teeth of the Sea remain ahead of the curve.
To help Hope Not Hate continue to provide a positive antidote to the politics of hate, please donate here.