Happy Particles, Ryan Vail & Jesus H. Foxx at Sneaky Pete’s – Friday 10th August 2012

This was a good wee lineup, particularly for Festival time in Edinburgh, and I thought I would potter along because, for all I clearly don’t need an introduction to Jesus H. Foxx, all I really knew of the other two bands was other people’s praise.

Given they’re on our label, I can’t really review Jesus H. Foxx I suppose, but I will say that this was their first performance with a new drummer on only three hours of practice.  So for a band known for being one of the tightest around there was a somewhat unaccustomed air of scruffiness going on here, although in the grand scheme of things it wasn’t a big deal.

Ryan Vail performed as a two-piece from behind a mountain of keyboards, and for all they looked (and confessed to being) absolutely shattered from travelling, this was still a performance of charm and liveliness.

The electronica the two of them made (I didn’t catch the name of Ryan’s companion, apologies) was beaty and dreamy, and the vocals added to this.  As lovely as the sounds were that they made, however, I have to confess I struggled to make out individual songs all that well.  That’s always a risk when you go to a gig without knowing anything about a band beforehand I suppose, but for all they made beautiful noises, I am not sure there were enough hooks or hummable tunes to really do it for me.

Ian from the label was in raptures though.  But then he does love his dreampop.

Headliners Happy Particles are a band I listened to a little bit right at the beginning when the enthusiastic chatter about them first started to build.  I wasn’t overly keen at the time, so I have to confess that with all the other stuff with which I am constantly bombarded I haven’t paid them very much attention since.

They made the shortlist for the Scottish Album of the Year Award though, and again, Ian from the label is a fan, so I made the trip to Sneaky’s this evening most particularly to see this band and to ascertain whether or not I had made a bit of a mistake in neglecting them for the last year or two, since I was first made aware of their music.

Truthfully, even after the gig, I am not really any closer to an answer, I am afraid. A little like Ryan Vail, the sound they made as a band was awesome.  Multiple guitars brought a lovely, layered texture to their music.  Basically, if you were to imagine a classic Glasgow indie band who love (and I mean really love) Sigur Ros then you probably aren’t far wrong.

The vocals are particularly reminiscent, unavoidably inviting those music reviewers’ clichés ‘soaring and ethereal’. I’m listening back to the album as I write this however, and for all the use of strings and silence brings the record itself far more variety, I am still left with the definite suspicion that it will take a serious effort to tell a lot of these songs apart.

Again, it’s entirely possible that this is down simply to my unfamiliarity with the material, as I’ve had similar issues with the likes of The National and, yes, Sigur Ros before.  But for all I enjoyed the gig and for all, I reiterate, I thought the band created a really lovely sound, I think they fell slightly into the trap which snares a lot of bands which rely more on atmosphere and texture than melody and hooks: it was all a bit samey, unfortunately.

So I liked it, but I don’t think I will ever love this band.

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