Glass Mountain, at Jimmy’s, February 11th, Manchester
Sunday night at Jimmy’s was unmistakably northern. Classy acts with interesting sounds, all four bands were worth braving the sleet for. Headliners Glass Mountain (Bradford they told us) were preceded by Shallow Waters from Wigan, Violet Contours from York, and Dakota Avenue from Salford. While Jimmy’s wasn’t packed, it was a happy little crowd for an end-of-weekend gig. Jimmy’s is fairly new venue in the Northern Quarter, red and black with psychedelic rock murals and neon light pieces upstairs in the main bar and around the underground stage. Jimmy’s is establishing itself as one of the independent venues to keep an eye on.
Shallow Waters opened the night with a combination sound: great dark ambient noises with sharp percussion and a grungy feel that worked with their angry lyrics. The crowd danced along with Violet Contours. Dakota Avenue’s set was light touch and lovely. Their track ‘Backbone’, with its distinctly power-pop edge, was the highlight of their set. About the first three bands: I wish we could stop these boys (pale as only decades in the icy north can get them) from occasionally sliding into American accents. Obviously there is a huge influence from the US. The Arctic Monkeys, The Kooks, Coldplay, and The Verve were all elegantly referenced (Violet Contours’ set was fabulous high energy indie-rock with a soupçon of afro-pop that got the crowd dancing), but the American accent-slippage just felt unnecessary.
Glass Mountain are an audio-visual act whose live work you enter into rather than just listening to so the intimacy of the venue was perfect. The stage at Jimmy’s is a pretty small corner but there was more than enough room for Glass Mountain’s set up, which demands engagement with the visuals as much as their sound demands that you listen, and listen seriously. This tour follows the release of their new EP Wow & Flutter (also available in very pretty red vinyl) and anyone who loved, as they should, their first release Glacial—which we were treated to at the end of their set—will not be disappointed with their new work. The new material builds in similar ways to the old: it’s lyrical and determinedly sorrowful. They say ‘yearning’ is one of their key influences and there is definitely something of the power and intensity of that idea in their lyrics and sound.
Throughout the set a wrap-around projection behind the band played a series of images carefully woven together with each tune. Some slight technical glitch at the start of their last song showed clearly that each set of projections was timed and designed for each song rather than simply rolling background. Everything from red digital number sequences scrolling on a black screen to sped up beach scenes was there and the opening images of a gospel choir singing ‘We Shall Overcome’, combined with a sample of the choirs music, set up a determined interaction between the music and image flawlessly. Images of prescription pills labelled Take as Needed added an alternative dimension and depth to the song without being illustrative or overpowering. A close up of the moon woven with broken lines of coding played while vocalist Harry sang the lines listening to you for a thousand years gives you a feel for the loneliness of some of their sound. ‘Cowboy Song’ was a really interesting mixture of noise and rhythm and ‘Gin Flows Through My Veins’ was a surprise delight with rough undertones and a clear reaching keyboard line throughout.
Glass Mountain has an understated stage presence; Harry worried about it being pretentious to ask for the lights to be lowered (it wasn’t, we needed to see the projection behind them) and the band tried to run a competition for some gin that the crowd didn’t really get into but the whole project is so strangely beautiful to be inside of and somehow generous feeling that their gentle awkwardness doesn’t matter. It’s a complicated interaction but there is no desire to confuse. It’s always great to see bands build on the promise of their earlier work and programming these delightfully northern talents together let the music and influences speak to each other in a way that was much enjoyed by all. It was unclear who the restrained alien at the back of the stage belonged to, he was there all night, but I thought his little green face was an excellent edition to each set.
by Tessa Harris