Live at Packhorse on Friday, 14th May 2010
The Packhorse isn't a space that lends itself to Juffage's usual live acrobatics (his typical antics make swinging a cat look positively risk-free and space-saving), but it's testament to the substance behind the eccentric style that his set stands sturdy without some of the visual trappings. The focus being more weighted towards what's going on musically accentuates the complex textures, with sinuous melodies looped, layered and manipulated until they give way to enveloping, shattering cacophony. Of course, the space limitations only mean that Juffage's idiosyncratic performing style is more rerouted than suppressed. There's some serious banter to be had, and the fascination of watching the multi-instrumentalist flay octopus-like across a variety of guitars, keyboards and drums doesn't seem to wear off.
Conquering Animal Sound are much more severely hobbled this evening. Technical difficulties not only cut them short but, too, make for a very frustrated duo and one rather put-upon sound tech - as each of their loops insists on decaying, things seem to get increasingly tense. This atmosphere is sharply at odds with their whimsical, delicate soundscapes of lulling melodies, lace-like textures, gently glitch-y beats, chirruping vocals and endearing instrumentation (see: toy pianos, melodica, pretty harp ostinatos).
The Pattern Theory's impressively strong Leeds support network has the venue bursting at the seams by this point. It's hard to tell whether The Pattern Theory's poise seems the more striking because of time lacklustre-ing the memory of their live sets or simply leaps-and-bounds improvements in the intervening years since Leeds last saw them (it's probably a little of both) but, either way, tonight they seem to be monstrously precise. Not only rhythmically - it goes without saying that, as an ensemble, their cohesion is devastating as always - but elsewhere, too, not a musical hair is out of place. Tone colours and dynamics are meticulously and colourfully balanced.
It's a trait that appears to cross over into their approach in writing the new tracks, too. Melodic material is sharply in focus with simple, crystalline clarity. The Pattern Theory seem to have an exact map of what they want musically down to every last detail - and the means to get there, too. The technical accomplishment of itself is stirring; how many bands could actually pull off that sweet a drum solo without erring on the wrong side of accomplishment, or weave glossy, complex guitar lines without turning into good-for-nothing fret twiddlers? But their musical capability really comes into its own when it makes pulling off their aesthetic look so easy.
Too, it seems to make Leeds more than a little bit jealous of Berlin. Well, at least we get to share sometimes.