Gizehfest @ Aatma, Manchester, 17 Feb

The inaugural Gizehfest pulls a large and attentive crowd to the Northern Quarter’s Aatma for an excellent night of noise and harmony

Live Review by Gary Kaill | 12 Mar 2018
  • Sounds from the Other City 2015 – Tomorrow We Sail

The inaugural Gizehfest pulls a large and attentive crowd to the Northern Quarter’s Aatma. The label's motto – 'The noise of harmony and the harmony of noise' – defines their passionate aesthetic and the Glossop-based enterprise's growing roster is represented by a diverse set of artists.

To begin: Several Wives. An opening built atop bowed guitar and a skittering loop sets the tone for a half-hour set that unsettles and invigorates in equal measure. Stark beats fuel a drone backdrop. A guitar stoked with bow builds atmosphere and no little dread. Navigating a single, part-improvised piece that reaches a mid-point crescendo before relaxing into a final calming passage, Several Wives (a sketchy internet presence reveals little in the way of identity or history) exits to warm applause.

Hundred Year Old Man, however, set about taking the roof off. Led by Paul Broughton, a fireball presence whose roaring vocals confirm pipes way above the screaming norm, they marry rich melodics to a brutal, post-metal physicality. Every lilting opening is a delicious rug-pull as they rain down serious riffage. Track like Breaching and Black Fire confirm a heady scope beyond easy genre compartmentalising. "Not to be fucked with," nods a new convert from the back. There's one for the t-shirt, lads. A debut album arrives in April.

Otto Lindholm, the Belgium-based double bass player and electronic producer, is the perfect act to follow. His instrumental set is a demanding, but beautifully conceived, piece of chamber music that warms the early evening crowd.

There's a real sense of expectation as Tomorrow We Sail take the stage. Second album The Shadows confirms the continuing potency of their unique re-assembling of heritage materials. Tim Hay’s guitar puts a boot through any suggestion that the Leeds-based six-piece are mere revivalists. Ella Blake’s sorrowful lead vocals pay haunting tribute to the English folk tradition and her performance brings emotional resonance to new songs Home Fires and The Shadows. For Rosa, from debut For Those Who Caught the Sun in Flight, brings their five song set to a shattering climax, its extended coda galvanized by Angela Chan's breathtaking violin playing.

To close: Nadja. This humble scribe knows better than not to fess up: it's anyone's guess what they actually play tonight, but Aidan Baker and Leah Buckareff can be heard planning their set as they ask for the PA to be turned up (a request that, ultimately, falls on deaf ears. Arf.) "It's nothing that we have for sale tonight, put it that way,” observes Baker. So, for the record, they play for the best part of an hour, an epic set that features just two tracks and few gear changes, but whose pulsing charge is never less than hypnotic. You don't listen to Nadja, you enter their own distinct and inarguable void. A handful of lightweights bow out: their loss. The lengthy and appreciative response is well earned, and acts as a fitting climax to an exhilarating day. Here’s to 2019.