Sweet Release of Death and Space Siren, SUB071 Leiden, 26/02/14

What really sucks you in is the bass line which, by contrast to all the guitar shards being chucked at you by Gwen and Corno, is as smooth as velvet. Madness.


Another night at SUB; and it could become a habit if we’re not careful... but hey, us Leideners have to take our kicks when we can; as the venue’s days are numbered. When the council decides to evict and knock down this sacred blot on the landscape is anyone’s guess; this year, next, who knows. Still, we have SUB for now, and we should enjoy it. And tonight was a special night; everyone’s favourite bicycle shed come venue welcomed back the mighty Space Siren, and played host to the record launch of Sweet Release of Death’s debut, Bulb; a disc that Space Siren’s Corno Zwetslot had sweated long, loving hours over. 

Yet again the place was pretty full; but no surprise, as Space Siren are a great band and one that have started to get, however incrementally, the attention they have long deserved. And they kicked off, giving the honours to Sweet Release to headline. Space Siren’s set is undergoing changes; given Corno’s desire to crack on with following up their brilliant debut LP Mr. Wagner, Please Give Us A Call... That record’s dense, spiky but ever giving soul got some serious examinations in their live sets over the last year; bass lines became more prominent and groovy, the rhythm patterns created deeper hinterlands behind the wall of noise and the textures were tested for their elasticity and bite. Because of all this sonic fucking about, the tracks began to mutate into other, wilder beasts. This in turn has seemingly led to a confidence and renewed focus in penning new material, the band maybe realizing that their sonic examination of old stuff could shed light on new paths to venture down. So we got a whole load of new tracks bookended by familiar faves, such as Who Makes Me Try.

I Think I Saw An Elephant started matters here; a wailing behemoth that somehow has become a pop song courtesy of a lot of touring. On record it’s a shocking opener, and one that may well put you off; (go listen to the LP on Bandcamp, it starts matters, you should see what I mean) but live it’s a High Victorian Gothicke Metal Steam Traction Engine (got that, space cadets?) albeit with a candy coating; crushing everything in its path. What really sucks you in is the bass line which, by contrast to all the guitar shards being chucked at you by Gwen and Corno, is as smooth as velvet. Madness. It’s also really noticeable how much Gwen’s character has become much more dominant in a band full of tough, assured characters. I used to worry that her undoubted skills were getting lost in this maelstrom of noise, but Gwen’s voice is now imperious; switching between some cosmic wail and a melancholic croon that hits all points on the emotional compass. Anyway, I should also say that the band’s new stuff sounded brilliant, frankly; maybe tougher than the current material, and somehow darker and elemental. Mountains and rivers stuff, Shelley and Byron getting pissed in Italy, that kind of thing. Who Makes Me Try ended the set; the chiming riffs that interweave through the song’s structure ran through the track like some glittering silver thread. And thank fuck that SUB’s sound has improved a thousand fold since the band first played here (ironically enough to launch their debut, I think) where it sounded as if they were playing in a pressure chamber.

After this we got Sweet Release of Death, whose debut infuriates and delights in equal measure. Still to their immense credit, it’s a record that only they could have made; and a record that allows them to start some serious artistic research from now on. They’ve got soul you know? Real soul, and that’s rare. They’ve got something, and it’s exciting to see them inch closer and closer towards some kind of shattering self-revelation. The gig was the best I’ve ever seen them play; finally deciding (after years of seemingly ignoring each other) that they finally do exist as corporeal entities together on a stage, the band got down, knocking out their tracks at a decent pace and indulging in some peoper interaction. Those Polish gigs they did has obviously, really shaken them up; and tracks like have this blistering, stripped back and SIMPLE quality that is great. They could, if they pulled their finger out, do something similar to U2’s Boy or October, a song like Ghosts in Fur Coats could really blossom live; what with that simple, effective, powerful sound with all that delay creating a screeching affirmative top layer. They boast a racket that can just keep being patched up to work again; like fixing the tracks your T34 in the heat of battle. Things like Ice King and Remember Moonlilght could, if they gave them some welly and really thought about the dynamics, be huge things, things that could crack mountains. And despite them being Rotterdammers and doubtless worshipping at the feet of J. Deelder, R. Loesberg, C.B. Vaandrager & co., they just don’t suit existentialism really; not with bubbling songs like 30 Dances. No, bassist Alicia is miles better when she’s in control; playing host, joking with the audience, playing off Martin’s surly presence. In fact it was great to see them pretend to fall apart at the end; the PA emitting a whole range of blurts and squawks with the pressure of the feedback. Hot dang!

So, all in all, a cracking night, people dance, laughed, had a sherbert or two and got down. Hope we have a repeat performance.