Jul 28, 2014

On the Scene: The Wytches at Glasslands (Brooklyn 7.25.14)

Best $12 I Spent All Summer! 
by Liz Maher

by Melissa Gallagher
The Wytches played their first NY show at Brooklyn’s Glasslands on 7/25/14. The band is a three piece from Brighton, England, by way of Peterborough, comprised of Kristian Bell on vocals and guitar, Dan Rumsey on bass and Gianni Honey drumming. Bell and Honey are barely of legal-drinking age, although Honey, a slight boyish man, maintained in a White Board Project interview a few years back they are all very experienced musicians. Wytches is on its first US tour and has a debut album Annabel Dream Reader, out in a month. Rising steadily on the radar of alternative bands, Wytches offers music definitely worth checking out.

Backed by hypnotic beats faintly reeking of Eastern influences, Wytches’ lyrics transport listeners through the darkness of Bell’s and Honey’s psyche, thumping with riveting waves of bleakness and despair. Wytches’ trippy sound doesn’t let you stay in the dark too long, moving you through the anxiety and pain out into the harsh daylight like an amusement park ride moving from dark shriek-filled terror scenarios to the overly bright, possibly worse, outside at the ride’s end.

by Melissa Gallagher
Wytches is a bubbling caldron of 13th generation psych, grunge, geek-horror, trance and surfer reverberations patchworked between thrashing hardcore interludes: not quite ready to be served up but smelling so good you find yourself salivating like a dog waiting for dinner to come. On occasion, they throw in riffs reminiscent of grade B thrillers soundtracks. A dash of this, a dash of that like Alex Turner paired with the zombies of Black Angels while being garroted by his own guitar strings. The band describes its music as surf-grunge. One could also find comparisons to the Rolling Stones’ Satanic Majesties with more sustain or even Cream’s Disraeli Gears.

The lads appeared a bit uncomfortable in front of a small crowd of maybe 30 or so people. Camouflaging their giddy shyness, Bell and Rumsey kept their faces and back hunched down toward their Fender products. Hidden behind shiny long black hair, Wytches appear as three nerdy kids practicing with each other in an unlit garage. However, they give off sounds equal to a full band complement of multiple gits, keyboards and synthesizers at Glenn Danzig’s funeral. Limited to three pieces, Wytches lead and rhythm are the same, which eliminates annoying little riffs and allows for a richer melody with more sustain.

Bell’s lyrics (Homey also writes) and singing style bring you on a poetic, psychologically-fixated tour of his anxiety, disappointment in himself, life in general, sexual frustration, a hopeless and perpetual collapse of his dignity swinging over him like a pendulum. A sad, torn box of band t-shirts hauled across the Atlantic reverberated the despair and agony at the corner of Glassland’s stage. When Bell parts his hair, you see the pale mask of a soul tortured by his inherent failures. At age 21! Even Romy Madley Croft isn’t as self-conscious as Bell. So much talent here even when the individual bits are sub-mediocre. A misleadingly impressive package. That being said, while Wytches started and closed strong, there was a bit too much practice and shrieking covering for yet unwritten songs sandwiched in between Wire Framed Mattress, Crying Clown and Beehive Queen. The recordings are better than the band is live - which doesn’t mean they are bad live. Actually, they are very good live but even better when Liam Watson of White Stripes Elephant reigns them in to a loose (really loose) wire frame. Similarly, their videos are campy and low budget, which fits into Wytches brand as a DIY group. Their art work is mostly Bell’s creepy thin-line drawings, similar to the equally discomforting art of Screaming Female’s Marissa Paternoster’s drawings. Wytches successfully markets itself as post-post-punk psych, while getting ready to lose the training wheels through appearances at various festivals and showcase events in the UK and SXSW 2014. It’s working as they’ve steadily gained fans while moving from opening act to headliners. Even if they are headlining to crowds of 30. Highlights of Wytches’s short set included Beehive Queen, Crying Clown and Robe For Juda. Wytches score high on song progression and are at their best when breaking off into more rehearsed flowing tunes. Bell and Rumsey’s synchronized head movements are also fun to watch. Don’t expect an encore because they simply do not have enough material for one.

Opening for Wytches was Canadian act HEAT, who were pleasant enough in a Strokes-minus-the-angst way and a loud, incredibly polite two-man Florida group SLAAVE. Did someone leave their cap locks on? Anyway, we emerged from the upbeat gloom of Wytches only to be greeted by the sunny smiles of SLAAVE, making this the best $12 I spent all summer.

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