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Review: About Group

About Group
(Cafe Oto, Tuesday March 1st, review and drawings* by Geoff Winston)

The intentional ebb and flow to the aural depth and pace of the music was almost schizophrenic. About Group’s set was in part a dry run for their forthcoming album, ‘Start and Complete’ (Domino). Based around Alexis Taylor’s lyrical songs, with their hints of pure Beatles homage, and his high-pitched, soulful vocals, some songs were played out snugly in their own right, while others would morph in unexpected directions, invaded by an intense collage of reverb, electronics and distortion, creating a sensation of wading backwards against an onrushing torrent. More like the Beatles in their psychedelic period, and some way beyond.

About Group are a highly resourceful and well-complemented combination. Pat Thomas could flip from a Booker T organ groove to Lonnie Smith flowing piano runs and then reach out to pick at the piano’s strings or just play a simple pared down pop tune. Ever attentive, he had strong rapport with Charles Hayward, taut and hunched, who supplied pumped up backbeat and heavy, woozy Parliament-style funk (the only man missing was George Clinton!) before heading off at manic speed or slowing to skim the kit with bright red brushes.

John Coxon and Taylor shared the honours in welding together rolling waves of audio disfunction, complementing Thomas’s deft work on keyboards. There were occasional whoops of recognition from a dedicated following, and they finished as they had started with Taylor’s ‘Married to the Sea’, echoing the new album’s order of play.

Alan Wilkinson (saxes-drawing above) with the rhythm team of John Edwards (bass) and Steve Noble(drums) kicked off the proceedings with a raw, occasionally raucous set in which Wilkinson’s alto screeched, squealed and ululated. On baritone he used its higher range as well as gasping roars from its lower registers, which Edwards picked up on, and Noble responded to with a springy, metallic timbre.

Green Gartside’s DJ mix was just recognisable between sets by its inclusion of classic soul numbers, but these were obscured by the ambient sound and probably went unnoticed by the majority in the house. Let’s pump up the volume next time!

(* Images copyright Geoffrey Winston 2011, All Rights Reserved)

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