Live Review : The Body + Black To Comm @ Soup Kitchen, Manchester on July 23rd 2019

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Somewhere in the outlying stretches of our world is a thin expense entitled alt-metal, experimental drone and Blackgaze. It’s that forbidden zone where Metal and hipster collide. Tonight, I stand on that exact apex as this may be classed as a metal gig, but the audience as one looks like they should be running organic beaver milk cafes in Shoreditch. It really is trendy à gogo; the beards are neatly trimmed, the beer extra hoppy and every t-shirt is of bands that you will never ever hear of. I miss Caina completely. It’s too hot and I had a paddling pool to fill, so sue me. 

Black to Comm is essentially German “sound artist” Marc Richter twiddling knobs on a sequencer and a sampler. The crowd stands reverentially and deathly silent for the entire set. They only clap at the end of the half hour soundscape, but pretty sure that they are all blown away by the minimalism and challenging nature of the whole thing. As for me, well, personally I just can’t get the image of Ross in Friends playing the keyboard out of my head. I like music that is stimulating, I like music that is thought provoking and I like music that is experimental. But this is just a man mixing sounds with other sounds for no other reason than he probably thinks that the sounds are lonely and deserve to be together. I simply see no reason or no point for what he is doing. Call me a philistine (as I am sure his rabid fan-base will) but this is just dull and rather meaningless.

Last year’s “I Have Fought Against It, but I Can't Any Longer” is a masterpiece. It is the reason why I have chosen to spend the hottest night of the year in a tiny sweltering basement in the Northern Quarter. The Body managed to create a record that transcend being simply a collection of songs and instead was a canvas on which they painted their feelings of pain, loneliness and despair. By no means an easy listen, it was simultaneously disturbing and enticing. I am really keen to discover how they present this insular claustrophobic soundscape live. And the simple answer is that they don’t. Nothing played tonight seems to bare any resemblance to the material on “I Have Fought Against It, but I Can't Any Longer” nor any of their other records. It is still deeply impenetrable noise fuelled by resentment and deep hurt, but not one “song” I hear this evening is at all recognisable as they stuff do on records. It is not like Dylan who chooses to disguise his numbers so that half through a particular piece of dirge you will go “hang on a minute that’s blowing in the wind”, The Body seem to be playing a completely new set of compositions that they just haven’t got around to record.

There also seems to be three of them. A number of tracks involve the unnamed guy on electronics sampling Chip King’s distorted guitar and then looping that back at an evener lower frequency. This use of live backtracking brings to mind The Young Gods, but aside from that I am lost for my usual cultural comparisons. In fact, this is more art insulation than gig, as most tracks seem to consist of a wall of jagged white noise with Chip screaming over it. It’s all very intense and corrosive. Its not what I would class as enjoyable, but I don’t think that it sets out to be. Its also incredibly hypnotic and immersive. You get pulled into this apocalyptic netherworld where all is left is grinding warped riffs and Chip’s screeches. And then without warning it stops. A bare forty minutes after they started, they cease and leave the stage. I indulge in Metal’s more idiosyncratic and grizzly side. I love the power of pure unadulterated noise, but, but I am just not sure what to make of what I saw tonight. There was pulsating Doom here and guitar passages that made my bowls shudder. But in the end it felt like they were trying too hard to be difficult and to be obtuse. It was like they were trying really hard not to be liked and if that is their aim, I’m not quite sure I see the point.

Words by Stewart Lucas