There probably should be some kind of health warning associated with A Place To Bury Strangers. It's not just the fact their stage show apparently flies headlong into the face of the UK Health and Safety Executive's recommendations for the use of strobe lights, it's the sheer complex intensity of their music that's the issue. The fact that I've been listening to them a lot recently (hell, this is the third time I've written about them in the last few months), and a lot of that has been through headphones, there's probably something very wrong indeed happening where my brain used to be. As such, I make no apologies at all for writing entirely subjectively about the Kings College show.
Picture of the band via Nathan Wind as Cochese licensed under Creative Commons
This is the second time I've seen the band in the space of a few months. At the risk of getting all leather elbow patchy, seeing a band like this twice in quick succession is pretty interesting from a critical perspective (and part of the reason I went to see My Bloody Valentine twice in a week not so long ago). I've already been blown away by the sheer visceral roar of their music; my mind corrupted, my eyes and eyes numbed into an ecstatic trance. This time, I wasn't about to get my self caught up in the frenzy. It was a Monday night, after all.
Once you've been shocked, offended or stunned, once the limits of acceptability have been transgressed, its impossible to be corrupted a second time and whilst the set list was largely the same, tonight's gig had a hugely different dynamic to the band's last London show at the ICA before Christmas. Last time was about being beaten into submission by the bombast, being mesmerised by the light show, this time I was able to start making out the layers, seeing that there's much more at work than just loud noise.
Don't get me wrong, loud noise is still an important part of their sound – they play it as another instrument in a similar way to MBV – but there's more going on. For me, tonight was about a gradual build of intensity, a slow creeping annihilation rather than a blitzkrieg. It was about Oliver Ackerman's twisted guitar noises, about how he inhabits the music on stage, turning from retiring shoegaze/indie popster to dangerously-crazed shaman within the space of their 70 minute set.
A Place to Bury Strangers are about more than just playing songs, they move beyond performance and start getting really physical. The music articulates the angsty, silent inner roar that you feel when you wake at 3.30am. Wow. I'm going to be leaving them alone for a bit.