Disrupting the Form

Disrupting the Form

Adebisi Shank's sound is dangerous, ill-mannered – and irrepressibly exciting. They take apart our expectations of what a three-piece rock band can do.

First Music Contact Tour: O Emperor / Heathers / Adebisi Shank 
Whelan’s, Dublin
11 June 2011

A certain pleasure resides in the well-achieved shattering of an established musical form – in those moments when something unforeseen unexpectedly flowers out of the well-trodden. Different genres yield up a store of such cases: I think of the Seattle group Earth’s transmuting of metal into avant-garde, of Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew’s cross-fertilisation of jazz and funk, or of La Monte Young’s Trio for Strings birthing minimalism by an unexpected manipulation of dodecaphony in the early 1960s.

Adebisi Shank, a three-piece band from Wexford, revel in such a moment. They trade in a joyful, hyper-manic meeting of rock and electronica, with pummelling post-hardcore drums linked into an elastic fuzz bass and an effects-heavy guitar – played by a virtuosic pair of hands. Adebisi Shank’s sound is sometimes reminiscent of the American noise duo Lightning Bolt but, whereas Lightning Bolt’s music emerges from an unorthodox set-up of bass and drums, Adebisi Shank embody and subvert that staple of rock music: the three-piece. You don’t expect a three-piece to be making this music, and the resulting rupture is exhilarating.

This performance, the final date on the First Music Contact national Irish tour, was the perfect foil for the Adebisi Shank jolt, with the band appearing last on a bill following two acts of a distinctly more traditional hue. O Emperor first plied the crowd with a Band-esque soporific: acoustic and bottleneck guitar, electric piano, shuffling drums, lyrics of premature ageing. Then Heathers, fronted by twin sisters Ellie and Louise Macnamara, who dress their music in a similarly well-worn singer-songwriter outfit. Adebisi Shank’s sound charged through this like a drunk gatecrashing an otherwise sober party – ill-mannered, dangerous, and yet the most exciting thing there.

Exuberance was the watchword. Guitarist Lar Kaye and (masked) bassist Vin McCreith flailed around onstage, while still meeting every scattershot note; on the floor, the crowd kicked into mosh-mode. Highlights were the demented guitar-bass polyphony of ‘You Me’, the 6/8 techno-scherzo of ‘Oyasumi’ from the band’s second album, and the final, fever-inducing ‘Mini Rockers’, in which repeated off-beats seemed to chase one other into the aether at hyperspeed.

Published on 17 June 2011

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