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Wozniak / Vladimir / We Came from The North – Sneaky Pete’s, Edinburgh – Friday 1 November 2013

So while Mike was heading North to Aberfeldy I was making the journey South to Edinburgh and you know, our paths may even have crossed at some point on route. But hey, the man can’t be in two places at once, no matter what he tells you so I thought I’d give you the lowdown on Wozniak’s single launch. That said, I thought we’d never make it to the venue, what with capital traffic, roadworks and the tendency of groups of people to fling themselves out in front of a van loaded with band members and gear at every crossing and junction. Still, made it we did and I for one was pleased.

Sneaky Pete’s is fast becoming a regular haunt of mine this year, either watching bands or playing there and it’s a wee venue that I have a lot of time for with its long, compact room and high stage and an impressive sound but since this isn’t the Architectural Review (small venues edition) I’ll get down to brass tacks and review the show.

First up were We Came From The North. Now I’ll admit they are a band that I know utterly nothing about other than there are four of them, they describe themselves as ‘a post rock band from Edinburgh’ and the songs are entirely devoid of words. Post rock is a fairly abused term to cover a wide range of largely instrumental music with awkward time changes and can range from the sublime to the utterly dreary. We Came From The North were pretty enjoyable, some sweet delicate passages interspersed with noisier parts. When it worked it was pretty wonderful but at times it slightly washed over me. They seemed to start very hesitantly and lacked a bit of stage presence – at one point, only three songs in I thought they had finished after there was a halting silence after the song finished – but as they hit their stride and relaxed a little the set seemed to gain in momentum. While not the finished product yet I did enjoy them, as did the crowd, and I’d file them under ones to watch.

Vladimir suffer from no such nerves, at least not visibly and this year has seen them grow further in stature, both in terms of song writing, and their live performance which is immensely exciting and assured without losing any of the edginess of earlier shows. They take to the tight stage and with no introduction launch into the new single ‘Come Over’. Vladimir’s sound can be punishing but it’s tempered with sweet hooks and melodies which mesh in with the ferocious sound. Where earlier songs are often a wall of intense sound the newer songs have a little more light or at least brighter shades of dark though this can be traced back to the elegant second single ‘Cold Winter’s Grasp’ which gets an airing tonight along with ‘I Fight Fire’ from the debut E.P.

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There are several fairly new songs aired tonight which sound excellent, as does an elegiac version of Underworld’s ‘Born Slippy’ which eschews the ‘lager, lager, lager’ section and instead gives the song a dreamy-dirty work out. It’s great watching people slowly realise what the song is, it takes a little time to sink in as Vladimir make it their own. Set closer ‘Revolution Dream’ is truly fantastic, a generational call to arms, angry and sad but optimistic. It’s utterly wonderful and entrancing stuff.

Vladimir played:
Come Over / Smoke Eyes / Bleed / Born Slippy / I Fight Fire / Cold Winters Grasp / Revolution Dream.

Wozniak may appear to have risen out of nowhere. Having only played their debut gig in May they now have a debut single ‘MFMB’/’New Hampshire’ available and a fistful of gigs to their name but judging by the performance and the reaction of the home crowd you would think they were bruised veterans finally making good rather than cheeky newcomers. Mind you, it helps when you have a set of great songs under your belt as Wozniak certainly do.

The term ‘post rock’ could also be used to very loosely describe Wozniak’s sound. The majority of the songs are instrumental, they do have a love of a judiciously applied pedal or ten and are on a mission to make your ears ring in a manner that suggests they did take note at the Kevin Shields school of roar. Like My Bloody Valentine though, Wozniak have not forgotten the power though of sweet melodies and a dark pop sensibility and have songs that stick in your head long after the ears have calmed down to just a background buzz.

They also choose to open with one of the two single tracks, ‘MFMB’. I’m not sure how to describe ‘MFMB’, it’s an utter monster of a song. It begins with gentle, eerie Eastern influenced drone, like a mantra then keeps adding little bits of sound and builds up until it reaches some kind of velocity soaring above the planet. It’s fierce but welcoming, a song of utter beauty. And the amazing thing is that it isn’t a one off.

The set is incredibly consistent and also offers a variety of moods and sounds that wrap you up and can offer you a hug and a punch in the face simultaneously. There are a few new songs I believe added to the set and they sound as good but it’s tracks like ‘Kreuzberg’, the wonderfully titled ‘Columbo’s Car’ and the other single cut ‘New Hampshire’, sung by Sarah, that are my favourites at the moment. At the end of a set which could only be described as sweetly triumphant Wozniak are requested, no it is demanded, that they play an encore – which they do.

Both Vladimir and Wozniak are two of my favourite bands around at the moment, if there is any justice in the world, both bands will find themselves a wider audience. In the meantime, accept no lesser b(r)ands. The bar has been set high and will continue to rise.

Wozniak played:

MFMB / El Maresme / Paper Hat / Ground Echo / Kreuzberg / New Hampshire / Columbo’s Car / Hesta and Zelda.

(Words and pictures – Andy Wood)

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