After upbeat math kids Vasudeva have opened this evening’s proceedings at Manchester’s Rebellion Bar, The Physics House Band play a set that draws extensively from their most recent album Mercury Fountain. They open with Mobius Strip and Calypso, the first two tracks from the new record. All tight drum loops and powerful bass riffs offset by vertiginous guitars and cyclic, arpeggiated synths, the sound is almost overwhelming in a small venue such as this.
More mellow songs such as Holy Caves allow pause for reflection in an otherwise intense set, where cuts like Surrogate Head are punishing in their immediacy and drive. Harking back almost to an earlier, purer form of progressive and experimental music, there’s so much to like in their dense, melodic arrangements of intertwined guitars, synth and bass that it’s always surprising the band aren’t bigger than they are.
Unsurprisingly, Sleepmakeswaves’ set also leans heavily on their latest release, in this case this year’s Made Of Breath Only, with Tundra, To Light And Then Return, Midnight Sun and Glacial all making an appearance. There’s relatively little older material aired tonight, with most of the other tracks coming from 2014’s Love Of Cartography album. This is possibly explained by the fact that with new guitarist Daniel Oreskovic on board, only bassist Alex Wilson remains from the original line-up. Presumably, that’s why there’s a lack of tunes from 2011’s …And So We Destroyed Everything, on which only he and their other guitarist Otto Wicks-Green played.
Sleepmakeswaves are no slouches ,live, and their dynamic performance almost has too much energy at points. After an interlude of jumping on the crowd rail and speakers at the front of the stage, a monitor wedge gives way and Oreskovic ends up being thrown head over heels over the barrier into the crowd. Amazingly, there’s less than a couple of bars of silence before he’s on his feet and playing again. The rest of the band don’t realise until the end of the song that he’s even taken a fall.
Returning for an encore, the band play an arrangement of the famous trance track Children by Robert Miles. Somewhat unsurprisingly given the close relationship between post-rock and electronic music, the song works well with a guitar-based arrangement, and the band certainly seem to have a lot of fun delivering it.
Though it’s a gambit that risks straying into gimmick territory, the audience get into the spirit of things, and a powerful guitar breakdown – which is absent, of course, from the original version – wins over any doubters to close out what has been a breathtaking performance.