Glass Animals LIVE @ Sound Control, Manchester
With the Mercury Award opting for perhaps the only left field option of bunch in Young Fathers, 45-Magazine can’t have been the only ones still wondering how tonight’s headliners invite must have gotten lost in the post. Embarrassing for the judges to own up to we’re sure, but surely just as frustrating for Glass Animals and legendary producer, Paul Epworth, who signed them as the first band to lead the way on his new Wolftone label earlier this year. Their absorbing 2014 debut Zaba is a myriad of mystical sound-effects, slippery lyrical couplets and complex musical arrangements, that could’ve given both former winners Alt-J and James Blake a run for their money. But then again, in a year that has seen the controversial ceremony celebrate the pedestrian (Nick Mulvey), the predictable (Royal Blood) and the plain obscure (Go Go Penguin), maybe they just never filled in the RSVP.
However, as the band slope onstage at 8.45pm tonight it’s clear from the fervour that they will be playing to a crowd who have had no trouble smearing the “peanut butter vibes” of their long-player over their lug holes with glee.
As the thundering rhythm section of “Psylla” shakes the last of the fresher’s week confetti remaining in the rafters of the venue like canopy leaves into the murkey beer-synthesised gig mud, the general lack of response to its unusually sub-par drone sees the crowd remain rooted for now. However, as the cranking gears of Zaba stalwart “Black Mambo” follows up, a shift in the mood is imminent.
As the gig progresses, lead singer David Bayley’s limbs seemingly lose themselves in the intricate patterns of the music they are creating. Nonetheless, their impulsive flicks beckon the audience to venture deeper into the knotted jungles of their sound. Peeling back the sensual veils of “Gooey”, we’re soon lost in the star-studded twinkles and champagne flute whirls that make its synthesiser scent so alluring. Basslines pop and snap like burbling treacle swamps on an even stickier version of “Flip” but only before we’re lifted by its immense crescendo and thrown into the voodoo cooking pot of “Walla Walla”. The snaking delights of the spinal stroking new single “Hazey” is extended for occasion way past the 5-minute before it coils into the low-slung grooves of “Toes”; a soupy live duo that ensure that the digits of even the most reserved gig-goer are wiggling.
However, the gig is not without its occasional upsets. So high in the mix appear the bass and beats at times to justify their nods to the bone-shaking vibrations of their Trip Hop idols Massive Attack, that the perfume-delicate textures that give the album is distinct fragrance are evaporated by noise. It is these moments that the tropical illusion is lost, to instead reveal the bunch of Oxford indie kids on stage; but thankfully these few and far between.
Rounding off the encore, the Animals opt for a slightly lacklustre Kanye West cover (“Love Lockdown”) that comes across as more of a novelty than a bow to their Hip Hop influences. Yet to finish, the band show what they’re really made of with their majestic single “Pools”. Bayley’s vocals ripple across flowing calypso rhythms as its endorphin laced chorus ensures that he and the crowd leave with effortless smiles (“…because [they] want to”).
Despite a few technical over-exertions, on the live stage Glass Animals show they can recreate their Zaba paracosm just as vividly live and transport a whole audience there too. When that’s the case, who needs a crumby Mercury right?