sat 30/05/2020

Bellows, Komedia, Brighton | reviews, news & interviews

Bellows, Komedia, Brighton

Bellows, Komedia, Brighton

The exploratory outer edges of jazz have been rich and fecund in recent years. Among other things, bands such as MoHa and The Thing have pushed jazz into avant-garde noise and heavy rock, wild-haired drummer Seb Rochford has come up with project after project that fascinates far outside the jazz community and even Radiohead have been accused of dabbling. It's in this area that Bellows reside, musical territory that doesn't yet fall under strict genre categorization but touches on post-rock, electronica, cinematic orchestration and, of course, jazz.

The Brighton four-piece, signed to Cake Records, the playful subsidiary of mainstream jazz giant Candid, are at the beginning of their career. They've already shared stages with the likes of Led Bib and Portico Quartet but, tellingly, also with experimental electronic dance freak Squarepusher. The venue they choose to launch their Troop EP is the Komedia's small underground cabaret bar where they quietly gathered on stage before a seated wine-sipping audience.

Bellows are an instrumental band whose sound is built round double bass, keyboard and guitar. The ghost of prog rock was never far away as they performed but they kept it at bay by sticking firmly to the tunes at hand rather than extensive jamming. And tunes are what they're good at, persuasively mood-building pieces that hook. At their best there was something of John Barry about their work, albeit John Barry for the dubstep age. "The White Lodge", for instance, showcased a full melodic sound but scything bowed bass stabs and Korg synth added a modern techno feel to a big approachable tune. Indeed the gig as a whole was akin to a soundtrack in search of a film.

Guitarist, Jim Black, whose wild hair cascades unruly from under a cap, making  him look like an escapee from Faith No More, ceaselessly played with multiple pedals, using his instrument in the way electronic acts use their effects units. Other than him, though, and occasional attempts at banter from double bassist Marcus O'Dair, the band lacked something as a live experience.

The most they mustered between numbers was a comment about Bellows containing a Jim Black and a Jim White (drums) to which a wit in the audience shouted, "You just need a David Gray." When not dragging us off into their atmospheric and engaging pieces, they appeared a little awkward and their spell was temporarily broken. They're a band whose debut album should be eagerly anticipated but who, in the meantime, need to develop a few showbiz tricks to give them stage presence.

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