Black Light Ascension/Brutalist Architecture In The Sun/Dead Blood Cells

Poco Loco, Chatham - 9 June 2023

"Some of the best gig nights are still to be had in tiny venues in regional towns"

It isn't often I jump on a train and head east, deeper into Kent, for a gig. 90+% of them have me heading west into, or through, central London. But tonight's draw was part of an ongoing series of gigs labelled Post Plague. Driving force behind the promotion is Jason Cheesman of Dead Blood Cells, a band I first caught also supporting Brutalist Architecture in The Sun a couple of miles down the road in Rochester six years earlier - shortly after they formed. (Footage from that night available on the dsoaudio YouTube channel HERE.)

Dead Blood Cells have changed somewhat since I first saw them at the above-mentioned gig (June 2017). Cheesman’s approach to composition is unusual to say the least. I still sometimes find the constructions a bit weird. They're kinda odd juxtapositions that to my ears don't always sit well together. At least that's how it used to be.

Tonight, the approach to writing had clearly evolved and I found myself getting drawn deeper and deeper in as the set progressed, as I felt I could see (or, more accurately, hear) more clearly what he was going for. This was becoming hypnotic, trippy even. New track Above seemed to have the theme from Twin Peaks in the background and by the fourth song in the set Stop Pretending, I fully got it.

The impressively soaring, almost operatic voice of (new) lead singer Lilith Firechild and Cheeseman's noises are a rare combination that strikes with its uniqueness. Dead Blood Cells have never sounded better.

After they’d come off stage, I overheard a punter say to Jason: "I’m going to blame you for getting me into a new genre!" I’d say that was mission accomplished.

Setlist: Locked Away, On the Beach, Above, Stop Pretending, Woman in White

Brutalist Architecture In The Sun (BAITS) have a tendency to perform gigs around the time of releasing a new album (hardly unusual I hear you mutter) but, turning marketing promotion rules on their head, then fill their sets predominantly with new, unreleased material. Which, for me at least, is a much appreciated, 'bang for your buck' approach that I wholeheartedly approve of. However, if you've not seen them live very often, or are seeking them out to hear newly released material, it's worth taking note. Just so you're not disappointed. (I never am.)

In the studio, BAITS make extensive use of modular synthesis, meaning their recordings always pack a punch, feature gorgeous arpeggiating sequences, and have some of the best bass synth sounds available. Whilst practicalities often restrict them from using that admittedly unwieldy equipment live, the sounds are recreated via the wonders of soft synths via laptop, then augmented with live keys. Tonight using the Deepmind 12 as a midi controller.

True to form, from tonight's seven song set only one was from their excellent latest album Loneliness Kills. Of the new material, the bubbling modular groove of Monomania with its shared vocal titular choral refrain was an instant earworm. Single Spaces Cry (off Loneliness Kills) closed their set. It's one of the album's more 'jaunty' numbers and whilst perhaps not representative of the album as a whole, worked really well live.

Setlist: For Nought, Do I Have To Play Your Game?, Monomania, I Don't Need This Thing Called Us, Drive by Suicide, You're Not There, My Sadness Slipped Through, Single Spaces Cry

Dead Blood Cells Poco Loco 9 June 2023    Brutalist Architecture In The Sun Poco Loco 9 June 2023    Black Light Ascension Poco Loco 9 June 2023

Photos [L-R]: Dead Blood Cells, Brutalist Architecture In The Sun, Black Light Ascension

Black Light Ascension is an act I've followed since they first emerged. Core members today are still Andrew Trail and Hunter Barr, both of whom delivered several memorable gig going nights for me as part of the legendary, leather apron-clad Knifeladder back in the mid-00s.

Although I've never been drawn into slavishly buying their recorded output (even though 2011's Ashes remains a personal favourite and gets regular airings at the dsoaudio HQ), live they always deliver a passion-filled and powerful live experience. Considering that tonight there's just two guys on stage, the music explodes into the faces of a (by now) very up for it and vocal audience.

Almost immediately, virtually everyone in the crowd was dancing, which must have been great for Trail and Barr to look out upon. The sound through the small-sized venue's PA was spot-on throughout their set. Every time I see them live I'm reminded just how distinctive they sound. No-one else sounds quite like they do. That's some achievement.

Barr's lurching over his keyboard, rocking it back and forth, long hair down, sweat falling off his brow, sinister wide grin was a sight that could have struck fear into those unfamiliar with BLA live. With Trail thrashing his guitar for all it's worth, and occasionally whacking the drum pads, it was a threatening combination. You wouldn't want to mess with these guys! But that's just their onstage personas. Off stage, they're two of the nicest blokes you could wish to chat to. (Or, at least, they seem that way!) The reception at the end of their set was simply ecstatic.

Setlist: Dark Angels, Journey, Black Sun, Collider, Blinding Colour, Jack In Burn Out, All of the People

Reassuringly proving that some of the best gig nights are still to be had in tiny venues in regional towns, this evening’s Post Plague event firmly placed that promoter into my consciousness, so I'll be keeping a close eye on upcoming lineups under the same banner. You may want to do the same. 8/10

Review + Photos: Rob Dyer