Grails at Oslo, HackneySupport: Majeur
March 11, 2017 at Oslo, Hackney
Promoter: Old Empire & Tidal Concerts
It was an uneasy start, many hours in to one of the dankest, haziest Saturdays I’ve had in a long time. It’d been wake, bake and head for Heathrow before more smoking and joking in a student halls toilet. I arrived on the scene at Oslo with a view to getting a beer and watching Majeur but in some bizarre turn of events, I arrived shortly after the band had finished. Having listened to Apex a few times, it would’ve been a real treat at the time as well; for anyone yet to check it out it’s basically a dude drumming space. Man versus nebula, beat versus ambience. Interstellar percussion for the stoned to the bone. But I missed it…so, with the desire for progress, I got a beer and had a quick chat with legendary in violet sticksman Oz Lozano before attempting to find a spot where I’d actually be able to see Grails in the sold-out venue. When I say sold-out, I mean, I literally couldn’t move through the crowd to find the various members of the Echoes and Dust family that were there that night.
It was rammed. There was no room to squeeze passed anyone so, I ended up watching the gig from the back and even then I could barely see Grails from atop all of the big people. For large parts of the set, I just stood with my eyes closed against the wall, occasionally supping beer. From the moment I first heard Grails’ Burning Off The Impurities about five or six years ago, it was one of my favourite albums and it’s unique deserty, cinematic atmosphere would be something that I’d use comparatively to describe bands ever since.
I slowly manoeuvred forward and backwards into the band’s catalogue eventually arriving on their seminal Deep Politics album from 2011; as a record proved without a shadow of a doubt to me that Grails are one of the most essential and underrated bands in the history of post-rock. It’s easy to just say “they’re cinematic” but, the truth is that with Grails it’s different to a lot of other post-rock bands; it’s not cinematic in this monotonous Hollywood sense of the term, the band is a portal that drags the listener through a portal into different diegeses; different plains of being. They craft environments with instruments as a painter builds a landscape with a brush. They’re a wormhole dragging the audience violently from their seats into new atmospheres and environments built like sonorous castles from sound waves and tonal structures. It’s the twists and turns that makes them unique; the evolution and experimentation, never settling, always expanding outwards. Watching Grails intoxicated with your eyes closed is as close to travelling the galaxy as a 21st century hominid will ever get.
Whilst a lot of these visions are articulated on projections colouring the bands’ performance with visceral and exciting visual stimuli, the fluidity of the performance and lucidity of the atmosphere is naturally, determined by the band’s impeccable performance and songwriting prowess. I think that’s probably the most important thing about this whole gig; it was like one long lucid dream, a band I had always wanted to see live, played so well and so amazingly that I barely opened my eyes the whole time; it was utterly an trance-inducing trip through musical excellence. I look forward to many, many more Grails gigs going forward.