This is a difficult review to write. Föllakzoid’s albums are very good, the band’s growth via “depuration” (the action or process of freeing something of impurities) evidenced with each album shifting the duo further into the mists and dissolving the author and narrative paradigms found across all musics. And their latest, I, released through Sacred Bones on 1 August, is an album that has seen many repeat plays since it dropped into the MR inbox in late June. The prospect of seeing them at Kings Heath’s Hare & Hounds was an opportunity not to be missed.
The lights go down and Domingæ Garcia-Huidobro walks on stage and signals for the remaining lights to be switched off. Completely. The whole room. She kneels over the guitar effects at the front of the stage, fiddles with them to set off some rhythmic feedback noise and then stands, pulls out a cigarette lighter and lights a cigarette. A few more twiddles and the noise changes shape slightly, subtly morphing into an array of trance-inducing tones and hypnotic rhythms. And then not much else happens…
After what seems like an age of waiting for something to happen other than the tiny tweak on the FX box and the occasional holding aloft of a cigarette lighter in the dark – perhaps so the audience know which way to look – two other people join her onstage (they could be anybody, it’s dark), one behind a PC and a synth, the other behind a drum kit. And other than the drummer hitting the hi-hat here and there and the other guy on the synth fiddles with his knobs and tickles his tools, not much else happens.
Whenever the sound/lighting guy fades the lights up – perhaps in an attempt to remind the audience where the stage is or give the band some appropriate mood lighting – time and again, Garcia-Huidobrosignals for them to be cut until about 45 minutes in, they stay on, albeit very dimly. A minor victory for the sound/lighting guy and a welcome treat for the audience who, judging by the looks on their faces, are not best pleased with coming out tonight to stand in a dark room and listen to a band that they have long been looking forward to hearing andseeing. Hell, even black metal bands have at least one light on, and they’re some of the most miserable shits on the planet.
But still, the music throbs and pulsates in the darkness. One guy dances like there’s no tomorrow, a few move with the rhythm, their heads vibing with the cool vibes, but most stand their clearly bewildered, unambiguously underwhelmed, and assumedly probably annoyed at having paid £15 to stand in the dark looking in the direction of where they think the stage is in the hope of seeing a very good band illuminated in some way or another. Okay, so maybe a light show is cliché, a cliché that Föllakzoid’s “depuration” deems unnecessary, but no light at all? We may as well have stayed at home and listened to this via some streaming service or other. In the dark. And evidently quite a few in attendance are thinking exactly that as the number of people in the room slowly diminishes.
If “the action or process of freeing something of impurities” extends beyond your music and into your audience, then that’s no better than elitism. “Aiming with each record to fill longer spaces of time with fewer and fewer elements” is one thing, but emptying the room of light and your fanbase, well, that’s not good, is it? Depuration or not, I still can’t recommend their music high enough.