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:: Mount Fabric :: The Narrows ::
24 March 2011 / The Castle (Oldham St) / Manchester
By Cath Aubergine

Apparently Manchester was hotter than Ibiza and Barcelona today. I don't know if this is actually true, but stepping into the back room of The Castle could certainly be considered evidence in favour of the claim. And something of a challenge, too - it's not exactly a large space and although the two bands we catch (apologies to opening band We The Few; we couldn't squeeze through the congestion round the door until the last song) are yet to trouble the national buzz radars both are developing fine reputations here in Manchester and starting to attract decent crowds, Deservedly so.

We first caught The Narrows in an early afternoon slot at Friends Of Manchester in January where they set the bar pretty high for the rest of the day. Now poised to release a new single ("Initials MM", out 4th April) this is altogether a tighter band than even two months ago - and still delightfully strange. Visually striking, with singer and one-man synth / electronics laboratory Phil Drinkwater in the front floorspace about six inches from us and guitarists Adam Hynes and David Battle either side on the stage, they make twisted and dramatic progressive electronic pop that wilfully defies easy description or classification. As such they have precisely no contemporaries, although fans of the oddball sythnpop end of Mute Records' early-00s output might pick up traces of Echoboy; no space is left empty when it could be filled with a massive baroque keyboard choir or a sequence of dancey bleepery; and Phil's commanding vocals are passionate and paranoid in equal measure. The play just five songs and the excellent, towering single aside we don't catch the name of any of them, but just when we think there's no stone left unturned they'll throw in the additional joy of some squelchy techno noises or a coda of disco maracas. And they are consistently utterly brilliant. Whether you're one of those cynics that moans about all new bands sounding the same or an active new music fan constantly seeking out things to get excited about, go and see this band: the former will be proved wrong and the latter more than satisfied.

The occasional drawback of the latter, of course, is that whilst some bands seem to emerge fully-formed, others take a while to show what they're capable of: sometimes you can see a band too early, and in the year or so since we last saw them Mount Fabric have really crystallised and broken free from their influences. The results - released on their wonderfully-titled "Secretly an Astronaut" EP, which is launched this very evening - are yet another piece in the jigsaw of leftfield progressive prog-indie-pop that seems to be exploding across Manchester right now. Meaning tunes that could have escaped from the earlier and less bombastic days of Muse, a fantastic sense of dynamics, and in the shape of Alex Marczak one quite remarkable singer. Sometimes he's the young hungry post-punk dreamer, sometimes a dark angel with a disarming and quite astonishing falsetto. Their enthusiam is infectious too - between them they fight off a broken nail, a broken guitar string and a drum-carpet that seems intent on escaping the stage without ever missing a beat - never mind the fact that the room is by now ridiculously warm and oxygen-depleted. "We were going to do a long epic about how hard my life is" smiles Alex towards the end "but instead we're going to do a song about a rave" - it's the most regular "upbeat indie" type song in set but always nice to end on something you can have a bit of a dance to if so inclined.

Overall both of these bands are shining examples of how to make modern independent pop music that's both accessibly catchy and interestingly original.

Mount Fabric
The Narrows

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