You know it’s too cold when the candles are being used for warming hands as much as mood lighting. Where there aren’t candles, there’s darkness, a piece of kindling pops in the burner, and the wooden lean-tos are damp and moody. It’s still winter in March. Fortunately, resident noisemakers BALLANTYNE/METCALFE are here as a warm-up act. The essential setup is drums and sound manipulation with a pedalboard, but there are samplers and a guitar to hand. Said fx pedals are used gratuitously, but as instruments in their own right. It’s fascinating to watch a guitarist’s left hand and not to hear the gesture immediately. In 10 seconds, a sound emerges that might be a pitch shifted, phased iteration of it in reverse.
They build their music from scratch, and then they begin to play. It’s like a very instrumental approach to dance music. A few minutes in a groove, decaying into whatever garden path of knob-turning and switch-flicking makes a guitar sound like a lorry being refuelled. There’s a lot going on here stylistically, too much to easily describe, but there are moments where they sound like wilderness years Radiohead (without the burden of that band’s pop hinterland, and all the better for it) and others where they make a persuasive case for chillwave. The final sequence is dominated by rising scales, flourishes of irregular numbers over a time-travelling synthesis of drum machines and kit. It’s exhilarating, the sound of going up the front steps of heaven.
Some bands just open their sets, but TAUPE burst. Three burglars who, instead of robbing your house after breaking and entering at 3AM, take up space in your kitchen and play really aggressive jazz. I’m not sure if Stockholm syndrome works both ways, but their playing is so captivating you’d make these intruders a brew. This three-piece of sax, guitar, and drums are touring their second album, Fill Up Your Lungs And Bellow. With gut-wrenching changes of tempo (still popular on Tyneside, it seems) and an improvisational style that gets the forehead veins throbbing, it’s tempting to reach for the thesaurus and christen a new cut-and-paste genre. ‘Math jazz’ is written beside these notes, but the band put it best themselves: “This is what jazz sounds like”. It’s 2017, nobody wears berets anymore.
“There is no exquisite beauty… without some strangeness in the proportion” says Poe, and that’s true of what Taupe do. These three musicians are in total harmony with each other, however dissonant, and are a reminder that for all the poise and elegance of classical beauty, those gifted sculptors still revelled in rendering taught sinew and contracting muscle in inert, cold, stone. With development on all sides, the Gardens could soon find themselves being the very strangeness in this neighbourhood’s proportion, though whether the total effect will be beauty is up for debate. But safely ensconced in this oasis, there’s nothing to suggest you couldn’t just go next door, like it’s 2012. The music on offer tonight, and its surroundings, are vintage Kaz. As saxophonist Jamie Stockbridge says: “This is the second time we’ve played here, a very special space. Fuck the flats, let’s hope it stays!”