Submotion Orchestra @ The Art School, Glasgow, 21 Apr

Leeds seven-piece Submotion Orchestra justify their late slot with a gargantuan performance at Glasgow's Art School

Live Review by Jonathan Rimmer | 30 Apr 2018

Club nights aside, it's generally regarded as unwise to kick off your live set at the back end of 10.30pm – particularly if you opened your doors hours earlier. But seven-piece Submotion Orchestra aren't exactly the type to attract pissed up revellers. There's a sensuality to their cinematic post-dubstep sound that demands concentration.

The crowd, having spent the past two hours skanking about to local soundsystem Mungo's Hi-Fi, certainly seem up for it. The aural onslaught of the opening track Blind Spot sets the tone for the rest of the night: it's lush and expansive, showcasing keys player Taz Modi's signature synth loops and percussive duo Danny Templeman and Tommy Evans' labyrinthine rhythms, with occasional input from trumpeter Simon Beddoe.

After five albums, the instrumentalists' ability to switch up tempo and double back on themselves is a key element of their sound, one that has helped them stand out from numerous downtempo peers. At times, tonight they sound like a frenetic mariachi band trying to race with a two-step backing; at other points they're more emotive, meditating with jazzy chords and soulful grooves.

But the first cheer of the night is for the dramatic entrance of frontwoman Ruby Wood, whose vocals add clarity and direction to the band's thoughtful meanderings. Although her soprano voice is delicate on the surface, there's a sumptuousness to her delivery that becomes all the more apparent when the band turn up the intensity.

Although they do play several cuts from their latest record Kites, it's the older material that translates best. Thinking, from the band's 2012 record Fragments is the best example of what they're capable of on a technical level. Wood's floating melodies accompanied by gripping brassy motifs, give way to a powerful back-and-forth from the two drummers.

The encore is equally impressive, as they transition from fan favourite Thousand Yard Stare into the Portishead-esque Perfection from their very first record. To a bystander, admittedly much of the set will have blurred into one – although that's arguably testament to the consistency of the band's output and their commitment to their unique sound. For tonight, at least, it makes for an enthralling set that is often hypnotic, but one that can snap you out of it in a heartbeat.