The Relentless Garage, Highbury, London (9/10/09)
Electric Ballroom, Camden, London (22/10/09)
If they really have fallen to earth, I imagine the Icarus-esque We Fell To Earth hoped they’d land somewhere other than the (Relentless) Garage on a Friday night as support to lumpen US desert rockers, Masters Of Reality. The inglorious mismatch isn’t helped by a 7.15 kick-off, which means there’s a canyon between the Master’s die-hards at the bar and the curious 12 or so stagnant first-punters loitering stage front.
Thanks to a clutter of their own flight cases and electronic gadgets, there’s little room on stage for WFTE to manoeuvre; so much so, that their visual secret weapon, anon drummer, performs half hidden by a velvet curtain. The absolute counterpoint to the near-motionless public faces of the group, Wendy Rae Fowler and Richard File, he’s a powerhouse; a genuinely hypnotic performer who pummels with octopus dexterity on electronic pads that positively boom into the night.
File- bald, skeletal, near expressionless- has the look of a man who feels much more at home in the studio concocting these cathedral slabs of mesmeric, deep space psychedelia. It’s a sound that works as much for the head as for the feet. The bass is Can-sparse, the guitars, in turn, scratchy, yearning and explosive but always underpinned by that nagging engine room of tribal drumming. Elsewhere, you’re reminded of the stuttering, sizzling drum-machines of Suicide and the claustrophobic low end rumble of Massive Attack’s Mezzanine.
Thanks to U2’s The Edge, it’s been near impossible for guitarists to go near a delay peal since 1984, but set highlight, ‘The Double’ reclaims that chiming, motorik chug and aligns it with a pensive New Order bass line and the simple, hushed one word chorus, “Suicide…”
Fowler, a bona fide US rock chick, all skinny jeans and Joan Jett hair, tries to get some sort of party going but her, “How y’all doing?” (but on mic loudly enough). On this evidence, WFTE are better immersed within the cavernous cocoon of their self-titled debut album, one of the year’s near-hidden, though exceptional, dark thoughts.
Two weeks later and much better tailored to the ‘new gaze’ cacophony of 4AD headlines, The Big Pink, WFTE entertain a captive, already quite merry, audience at Camden’s sizeable Electric Ballroom. Swathed in celestial red light, their dense, cosmic dream-rock is more captivating, though one imagines a few jazz fags might help things along immeasurably. New single ‘Deaf’, is understandably saved until last. Though an effective enough, mildly ethereal, alternative rock anthem by numbers, it’s far sweeter than any of its predecessors and though it winds over The Big Pink contingent, it alienates the heads like me who’ve come to hear the depth-charge dynamics.
It’s early days for We Fell To Earth and though ‘Deaf’ could enamour them to a much wider audience, I hope they don’t lose the dark magic concocted so effectively on what is, for me, the best album of 2009.