Snapped Ankles review: possibly the most tree-mendous gig of the year
- Credit: Archant
Norwich Arts Centre is submerged in green as squealing electronic drones greet the four humanoid trees of Snapped Ankles as they appear through the smoke, probing the audience with x-ray eyes.
Opener 'Come Play The Trees' creates an unsettling atmosphere, as hollow chiming from the band's trademark log synthesizers punctuates earthquake-inducing drumming, peaking the curiosity of the crowd.
The tension explodes into an assault of jittering electronica blinking over thunderous motorik drums on 'Tailpipe' from latest album Stunning Luxury. The audience pounds up and down to its choking "suck a, suck a, suck a, suck a, suck a tailpipe" chorus.
Just about everything involved with Snapped Ankles provokes curiosity, a large proportion of their instruments are logs with endless knobs attached, which are then twiddled in-between being thumped with a large stick.
Some members of the audience even get to try the instruments for themselves when lead singer Austin (band members are only referred to by one name) heads into the crowd shouting "hit my log".
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Carefully chosen support acts also help build the band's parallel universe of intergalactic forests long before the Ankles' arrival on stage. The feeling that tonight might not be your standard gig had already been established by Adrena Adrena and Nuha Ruby Ra, whose pounding industrial rhythms and otherworldly performances perfectly prepped the assembled.
As Snapped Ankles set progresses audience preconceptions are challenged during the eerie 'Pestisound (We're Moving Out)', which tells the tale of green landscapes destroyed to make way for the concrete developments of money-hungry businessmen, but told from the perspective of the trees being felled.
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Themes of environmental devastation in the band's work hit home particularly hard when Austin seems to directly address the audience as complicit with pollution and destruction during the song.
At one point Austin pulls out a tape measure and asks the audience if it's okay to measure up Norwich Arts Centre for commercial opportunity. This creepy role reversal, seems to take the dangers facing the environment and use it to reflect the threat of closure so many of the country's music and arts venues face.
The band's tree personas are far from a gimmick, if they were just standing there in casual clothing their cutting edge beats would do all the talking.
Snapped Ankles sound is so fresh it leaves you speechless, certain elements of their sound hint at the influence of the repetitive lyrical nature of The Fall, the boundary-pushing knob-twiddling of Roxy Music's Brian Eno and krautrock pioneers Can, but at the same time they sound nothing like those bands.
The group takes the best from krautrock and post-punk, axing a lot of the fat which holds both genres back.
They retain the futuristic stainless steel gleam which made groups like the aforementioned Can, Neu! and Amon Dull II so innovative in the first place. While keeping their audience thinking and eagerly anticipating what lurks in the depths of their cyber woodland soundscape, rather than lingering and boring as some of their German predecessors did.
As they make their way off the stage at the end of the night, Snapped Ankles leave a stunned audience to reflect on possibly be the most tree-mendous gig of the year.