LIVE – Women/Zola Jesus/Idiot Glee

Deaf Institute, Manchester 02/09/2010
By Peter Rea

Idiot Glee is on stage as I enter The Deaf Institute’s top floor live room. James Friley from Kentucky sits alone in his cardigan behind a school type desk that supports a keyboard and other electronic gadgets. His sound is reminiscent of the Animal Collective, his voice has been doubled to harmonise with himself and has been treated to plenty of reverb. The effect is a dreamlike calming soundscape, drawing images of early evening beach campfires.

Zola Jesus are next and are a completely different kettle of fish. The diminutive lead singer Nika Roza Danilova wears a long black cloak and hood, which makes her peroxide blonde hair even more shocking. She grasps the microphone with both hands and ritually paces about the stage as if demons lurk ready to wrestle it from her. Excessive dry ice cheaply adds to the attempted spooky scene as she glides through her ethereal empowering lyrics over the cheap 80’s synths and drum samples.

Kate Bush and Jennifer Rush spring to mind. Her tone and control are incredible, given the volume that she’s generating. Impressive stuff. Wrapping herself in the microphone cord and fetching a box to stand on adds unnecessary distraction.

She ends by motioning the audience to clear a catwalk shaped path in front of the stage so she can pace about around there for a bit. I remain bemused afterwards, but the section of the audience with the most hairspray and loosest t-shirts flock enthusiastically to the merchandise stand.

Women are happy to be understated. Four Canadians in jeans and t-shirts. The bearded bassist stands central of the 3 guitarists, sporting a photo of Oprah Winfrey with her eyes coloured in on his instrument. To his left, the slight looking rhythm guitarist takes on a larger share of the singing. The lead guitarist to his right fiddles manically with his microphone and the tape cassette Walkman and Nintendo DS that are somehow aiding his performance.

Plenty of possible influences pass through my mind; Velvet Underground, Joy Division… but Women sound more optimistic. The album ‘Public Strain’ is full of great basslines and jangly guitar riffs. The changes are inspired, lead by the inventive drummer. ‘Heat Distinction’ and ‘Eyesore’ develop interest before some Pink Floyd style experimentation with a bit of The Jam and The Brian Jonestown Massacre thrown in. Almost American garage rock.

For me, ‘China Steps’ is the highlight with it’s vocal-less, deliberate bass heavy plodding build up, followed by the out-of-control ‘Drag Open’. Heavy. James (Idiot Glee) helps on a tune with some dreamy pads on his keyboard.

The band are relatively static and so are the audience but the between song applause is deservedly enthusiastic. Had this gig been in America the crowd would be jumping and throwing beer. The final tune lacks punch somewhat and all are left to disperse quietly but satisfied.

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