Astra + Purson @ Slade Rooms, Wolverhampton – 16 April 2013

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Review by Jason Guest

Described as “Vaudeville Carny Psych”, with performances as captivating as this evening and tracks that are nothing less than enthralling, Purson are on the way to making their presence very much felt. Oozing 60s/70s psychedelic/prog/rock, live, they are effortless, confident, commanding. Lead vocalist/guitarist Rosalie Cunningham’s got the riffs, the lead breaks, the voice, and the presence, her stage swagger evocative of Page and Plant combined. Alongside her stands key-tinkler Samuel Shove, resplendent in Slade-style checked flares (very apt, given the venue), his chops and melodies as striking as his red-bereted, black fur-coated appearance. And adorned in the finest corduroys and shirt that the 70s left behind, guitarist George Hudson and (now departed) bassist Barnaby Maddick hold down the rhythmic grooves together with the tight and colourful drumwork of Jack Hobbs. The crowd take to them pretty quickly and Purson keep them there, applause and appreciation growing more and more after each song. With their début The Circle And The Blue Door out now on Lee Dorrian’s Rise Above Records, Folk, blues, doom, psychedelia, 70s rock sensibilities, and a performance touching on the theatrical (something we shall hopefully see develop in future), Purson are the band to watch in 2013.

Fellow Rise Above label mates, San Diego’s Astra may not possess the same onstage theatrical presence as Purson, they’ve got the musicianship and the songs to transport us back to the 70s. With Steve Howe-like guitar lead breaks scattered across the extended spaced-out jams, Astra’s sound is organic, warm, with enough space in the elaborate structures to let the band breathe and reinvent the tracks over and again within just a few bars. Drawing on their two albums for their set list (Ed: Jason’s review of The Black Chord is here), the band’s progression and their developing identity can be plotted. An impressive arc, they blend the density and challenge of King Crimson with the architecture of Pink Floyd and the intellectual eccentricities of Gabriel-era Genesis into an idiosyncratic style that is enchanting and a pleasure to witness. With the guitar work of Richard Vaughan and Brian Ellis intertwining with the textural Mellotron and moog of Conor Rileyand the solid bass-lines of Stuart Sclater, the star of the showhas to be drummer David Hurley. Adept as much in subtlety and nuance as he is in power, he is the driving force behind tonight’s stellar performance.

1 COMMENT

  1. This was a great gig – for less than a tenner fantastic value for money too! Purson were a real heart warming surprise and Astra were sublime. If you missed it you only have yourself to blame!

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