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Review: Justice Yeldham, Phantom Chips, Jottnar, Tropic of Xhao Firstsite

With an advert that warns that there may be blood, this show was looking to be a particularly interesting one well in advance – Justice Yeldham (apparently now going by the name Granpa but seemingly nowhere making a note of the change) creates music by taking a piece of glass, fitting a pickup to it and running it through a selection of effects pedals while making sounds with his mouth against the glass. It was always going to be a bit eclectic, going in with this knowledge. Unfortunately I missed the first act, Zophocles, as, with the Firstsite bar seemingly impossible to find, we headed to the excellent Queen Street Brewhouse for a pre-gig locally brewed pint. Returning just intime for Tropic of Xhao, we were treated to a set of fairly psychedelic music, slow and fairly low, with a whole lot of stoner rock influence. The songs, while incomplex, made great use of some well-fitting vocals and some great drumming pulled it all together. They’ve shared the bill with a few of the more interesting touring acts coming to town recently and it’s quite clear why; they’re not your average verse/chorus/verse band, there’s something unique to their sound.

Next up came local black metal band Jotnarr – I can never remember which metal sub-genre is which (I like what I like), so I was plesantly suprised at the amount of atmousphere created by the two loud, distorted guitars, the drums pounding away as screams only enhanced the sound. I particularly enjoyed the way the songs progressed, creating something special while still pounding away at the ear drums. Definitely one of the best bands in Colchester – there’s musical talent and then there’s creating something that progresses and creates sounds like Jotnarr do. Excellent stuff.

With seemingly a lot of glitchy samplers and a selection of weird toys, Phantom Chips, the alias of Bristol based electronic artist Tara Pattenden. Creating beats and noises, it didn’t take long until audience participation came in to play; handing over a selection of toys that you warp and distort to control the sounds being created, she then started wearing and playing with something that can only really be described as udders – each udder acting like a joystick, seemingly making the sounds shoot off around the room. Handing some of those over to the audience too, it left Tara playing with 

glitchy electronics on stage while people played with the udders and the toys, huge grins on everyone’s faces. Sure, it wasn’t always tonally on point, as you’d expect when the audience is basically jamming with homemade controllers but, as well as sounding great in places, the whole audience had huge grins on their faces for the duration of the set. You can’t fault any artist who can do that – a genuinely excellent specticle and one which I am informed will be returning in the new year (shh, I didn’t tell you that!)

Heading up the night was Justice Yeldham, or Granpa, as his name had changed to shortly before the night, the stage name of glass player (!) Lucas Abela. I wasn’t really sure what to expect from Justice Yeldham – I got the impression he screamed into a sheet of glass beforehand but it seems it’s more sensitive than that and is more down to the lip movements and quieter noises, amplified by running it through a selection of effects pedals. However he did it, it was certainly impressive to watch, a man making music out of a broken panel of glass, and it some places it did sound pretty excellent but, I’d conceed that overall I probably wouldn’t be listening to it on my commute to work the next day.

That’s not to say it wasn’t enjoyable; how could you not enjoy such a set, such a unique specticle. I would say it sort of crosses the border between music and performance art and lies more in the later side – while there were a lot of musical parts the visual aspect was more impressive. The set, lasting just over ten minutes, was fairly thrilling, right up to the point where he started biting chunks off of the glass and then finally smashing it over his head before downing some gin to raptuous applause. That was one thing I didn’t expect actually; I’d presumed this was a special piece of glass, I pictured a flight case somewhere behid the stage, a cutout for the glass’ odd shape, but it seems the instrument is disposible and sacrificing it at the end of the set is a part of the performance. I can’t say I’d recommend rushing out and buying his albums but, if and when he returns to Colchester I’d certainly recommend coming out and witnessing it.

Despite the specticle, the highlight of the evening had to be Phantom Chips, who, alongside a genuinely innovative setup, managed to get large parts of the audience involved in the performance. The number of smiles from the crowd and getting to play with one of the electronic toys probably helped sway my decision mind you.

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