In Haunt

When the floor vibrates with the force of the soundcheck, take it as a sign. It certainly set the scene for an eclectic pre-Christmas gig at The Peer Hat – featuring Black Limousine, The Ombudsmen and the exciting new assemblage The Inflated Tear: consisting on the night of Susan O’Shea, Matt Davies, Johann Kloos, Jon Rowlinson and Ian Moss – formed from various alternative groups on the German Shepherd Records and AnalogueTrash independent labels.

This was an evening exploring experimental revelry and creativity, turning themes of self-expression and transgression into a resonant musical romp. The Peer Hat is after all a venue recognised for celebrating alternative local creativity; a place where conversations happen and collaborations occur – and the evening of 18 December certainly underlined that. Even the drapings of ivy from the Rural Eerie event (part of the Gothic Manchester Festival 2019) remained... 

By Victoria Egan

First to take to the underfloor stage were The Inflated Tear (pictured above), performing an improvised piece ‘The Sadness After Sex’. Sounds striking? Rather than treading lightly around the topic (as artistic encounters often do), the music and its loaded lyrics lunged straight to the meat of the matter. It began with a blistering build: bolts of hot rumbling bass from Matt Davies (Factory Acts) fusing with the expressive, jangle-edged guitar of Johann Kloos. And there was not just one bass, but two, as Jon Rowlinson (Four Candles) thickened the rolling rise of the mix with grinding throbs of rhythmic noise. One bass pulsing, the other probing… what a delightfully dark way to work up the physical tension and sensation within the gig space.

This was evidently a track with weight to it, a wonderful, heavy tactility – certainly fitting the foray into sex, and its sheer physicality. By this point the audience were already moving, the rising volume and energy of the sound as if stroking the underbelly of the city, opening it up with themes of encounter and intrigue.

 And opening this further through words loaded with lived experience and oozing grit was Ian Moss (also of Four Candles); his vocal delivery snaking through guttural growls all the way up to impassioned cries. Turning his tongue over moments of intimacy: the anticipation, disappointment, noise, pressure and the emptiness that arises from lack of connection – this was an honest account of ‘The Sadness After Sex’. Moving in more ways than one, the emotive impact also energised the crowd, the audience pulsing and swaying, sucked into the groove. And indeed, to create such a deep groove from improvisation is testament to skill; all the artists on stage bringing their own distinct sound to the mix… its undulations and expressions channelling the lunges and lurches of the sexual experience.  Note must be given to the creative keys and electronic artistry of Susan O’Shea (also of Factory Acts), who infused the track with a menacing melody, its edges fizzing with naughtiness, loosening up the grooving crowd further. Susan is also a founding member of MASSmcr (Music and Sonic Studies at Manchester Metropolitan University), a group researching creative innovation in sound. So such a collaboration perhaps seemed fitting.

This wasn’t just a piece, but an experience, encountering the pain, regret and raw attempt for escape into sex; all in a sustained 30-minute set. A stunning testament to all involved, amplified thanks to live mixing by Matty Simpson. This was collaboration and improvisation at its most organic and best: a probing, dirty, delightful sound to revel in.

Next to take to the stage were The Ombudsmen, sporting the entertainingly absurd attire of dressing gowns, sunglasses, even a surgical mask. Previously featured in Haunt’s 'Alternative, Gothic-inspired or just daring to be different: MORE Greater Manchester based bands to take a listen to' list, The Ombudsmen deliver instrumental tracks tripping with a wild energy, and this set did not disappoint. Washes of guitar and gripping bass brought the crowd to dancing, movement amplified through kaleidoscopic keys. It was as if the room had been plunged into a psychedelic arcade game, the sonic swagger and eccentricity still underpinned with a tightness. It is a great skill of a band to bring creative chaos into the room – and yet control it… with The Ombudsmen’s sound rolling and reeling, almost creature-like. The chemistry between the three members on stage was obvious and the lack of vocals clearly work in their favour, allowing their expression and skill to shine through. Humour is a key element of The Ombudsmen too, along with unpredictability - keeping the audience on their toes. Blasts of off-kilter experimentation and immersive oddity meant this was a set to remember.

The final band of the evening were Black Limousine, bringing a bold rocky edge with heights of expressive guitar. This is what it is to create interesting alt-rock; as rather than over-tired riffs and predictable song structures, Black Limousine bolstered the room with veering hooks and volume to boot, never allowing the audience to become complacent. Consisting of Mark Taylor and John Pew, now with the welcome addition of Neil Mykowski on driving drums, they gave an energised live performance, delving into dark edges in diverse ways. Lyrics stir with narrative depth – as their debut single ‘Dressed in Black’ underlines, vocals exploratory and yet well-measured. War On Dogs is another favourite. Thanks to rhythms slicked with bass, resonant yet retaining a rawness, Black Limousine served up a gut-punch of rock that thundered through the floor. It all seemed rather apt for a night celebrating Manchester’s creative underground – artists who aren’t afraid experiment, encountering the unusual, the uncomfortable and the seriously expressive along the way.

For more about The Peer Hat, see the previous Haunt Manchester article here and the venue will also host Manchester Folk Horror Festival III on 1 February.

By Emily Oldfield 

Photograph with thanks to Victoria Egan 

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