By: Gavin Brown

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Support: Mamiffer | website

The Fleece, Bristol | July 6, 2016

Fans of the many musical outlets that Aaron Turner is a part of have had a vintage year so far as not only have both SUMAC (with the towering What One Becomes) and Mamiffer (the majestic The World Unseen) released essential albums this year already, but the announcement of this tour that would see both bands playing on the same bill is definitely a cause for celebration and this show at The Fleece (the first of only two shows in the UK this year) was definitely one to remember for all the right reasons.

Opening the show was Janne Westerlund and the Circle and Pharaoh Overlord man warmed the crowd up nicely with a fairly brief, but effective solo set that featured a range of both gentle and more spikier folky songs, which made good use of his trademark banjo and left the stage to a hearty applause knowing that he had made a fair few new fans in Bristol tonight.

Mamiffer’s latest album The World Unseen has to be their strongest yet and it was with great anticipation to see songs from this album as well as their more established material in a live setting. As Faith Coloccia and Aaron Turner took to the stage with SUMAC man Brian Cook bolstering the live line up (as he has done in the past both on record and onstage), it was to a mixture of applause and awe. Although as soon as the band started playing, it was definitely only the latter and this continued throughout their sublime set. Watching Mamiffer was an experience that doesn’t happen that often in that it was intensely personal both for the band (obviously for Faith Coloccia most of all, who spilled her heart out in an commendably honest fashion), but also the audience too and it was an experience that no matter how many people were in the venue watching, it made you feel like you were the only one.

The band’s music resonated throughout with moments of tension wading through the frequencies being created in a deeply intense way. With Turner and Cook adding sonic density to the often fragile music that Coloccia, who was behind her keyboard for the duration of the gig, made you could tell it came from the heart and when she performed on her own with just a few effects from her keyboard it was simply breathtaking. The material from The World Unseen in particular sounded particularly monumental and proved the fact that Mamiffers’ performance was a a thing of brilliance and more than lived up to the anticipation. They may not play live very often so seeing them tonight was most definitely something to savour.

Like Mamiffer, SUMAC’s latest album What One Becomes is their best yet (they have only done two I know, but this one has even topped their brilliant debut The Deal) and again, the anticipation to see them live is heavy in the air, and again they simply did not disappoint in the slightest. SUMAC live are a bit of a different beast than they are on record. They are still as heavy, but onstage they have a raw, vibrant and altogether infectious presence that is a joy to behold.

Opening with the furious ‘Hollow King’ from The Deal saw SUMAC decimating the intimate venue with their ferocious sound and energy and it didn’t let up at any point during their performance. ‘Image Of Control’ and ‘Will To Reach’ from the new album sounded monolithic in their heaviness with Aaron Turner singing and playing his heart out and was ably backed by the furious drumming of Nick Yacyshyn and Brian Cook’s frenetic bass work that created a maelstrom of life affirming heaviness. The truly epic title track from The Deal ended things off and as soon as the last notes rang out, the audience picked their jaws up from the floor and tried to take in what they had just seen.

The audience at The Fleece tonight were anticipating some stunning performances, but nobody could have been prepared for just how truly special the night was. If it was only SUMAC or only Mamiffer, it would have been amazing anyway, but both on the same bill with performances of that calibre was incredible and after it was all done, everyone there knew they had seen something awe inspiring and had been privileged to do so.

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