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Aisles, live in London review

Even sound issues can't stop Aisles from delivering a storming performance in London

A photograph of Aisles playing in Camden
(Image: © James Sharrock)

It’s a chilly Sunday evening, one day before Halloween, and this Camden venue is unusually quiet. A small but loyal smattering of fans are gathered to watch Godsticks launch into the multi-faceted opener Ruin.

Aisles, L-R: Rodrigo Sepulveda, Daniel Baird-Kerr.

Aisles, L-R: Rodrigo Sepulveda, Daniel Baird-Kerr. (Image credit: James Sharrock)

“This the first of about 500 guitar changes… it is prog, after all!” frontman Darran Charles tells the compact audience as he swaps guitars one song later. It’s been just over six months since the Welsh four-piece were last in London but there’s a hint of nervousness in the musician’s voice tonight, and Prog wonders whether this could be related to technical issues. Although The Camden Assembly has recently undergone major refurbishment, there’s something not quite right with the sound and Godsticks’ heavy, layered groove is sucked into the room; the subtle nuances and guitar gymnastics from last year’s Emergence compressed into a grungy mess. It’s a real shame as the band are clearly putting their all into the performance and they exchange worried looks.

Not all is lost, though, because every now and again, Charles’ nimble-fingered arpeggios sparkle like diamonds through the mud and briefly lift the set. Godsticks still aren’t as well-known as they deserve, but here’s hoping that things are a little cleaner for next year’s tour with The Pineapple Thief.

Aisles, however, have come prepared. It’s the first time the headliners have played in the UK, and they’re not about to let potential sound issues get in the way of their show, so they’ve brought their own sound desk. It sits conspicuously in the centre of the room taking up almost as much space as their sparse audience. Once they begin, it becomes clear why they’ve gone to such great effort; their sound is flawless.

In the 15 years since they formed, the Chilean six-piece are still making new fans and their super-tight performance tonight – the last date of their rescheduled European tour – is a prime example of why. Their spot-on melodies, slick showmanship and classic sound peak on songs like the atmospheric CH-7, which is taken from their current concept album Hawaii. This impressive rendition is augmented with neo-prog harmonies and immaculate modern programming, earning it a very warm response from the skimpy audience. Vocalist Sebastián Vergara’s passionate delivery is worthy of a larger spacee.

Later, Aisles’ guitarist Germán Vergara gets everyone’s feet tapping along to the Latino-inspired mid-point of the experimental The Maiden. There are smiles all round as his rhythmic flourishes shift back to neo-prog perfection. In fact, tonight’s only disappointment is that there aren’t more music fans here to witness this band’s magnificent UK debut.

Natasha Scharf
Natasha Scharf

Contributing to Prog since the very first issue, writer and broadcaster Natasha Scharf was the magazine’s News Editor before she took up her current role of Deputy Editor, and has interviewed some of the best-known acts in the progressive music world from ELP, Yes and Marillion to Nightwish, Dream Theater and TesseracT. Starting young, she set up her first music fanzine in the late 80s and became a regular contributor to local newspapers and magazines over the next decade. The 00s would see her running the dark music magazine, Meltdown, as well as contributing to Metal Hammer, Classic Rock, Terrorizer and Artrocker. Author of music subculture books The Art Of Gothic and Worldwide Gothic, she’s since written album sleeve notes for Cherry Red, and also co-wrote Tarja Turunen’s memoirs, Singing In My Blood. Beyond the written word, Natasha has spent several decades as a club DJ, spinning tunes at aftershow parties for Metallica, Motörhead and Nine Inch Nails. She’s currently the only member of the Prog team to have appeared on the magazine’s cover.