A hurtling set
Mazes - Live At Birthdays, London

For a band to fall under a "DIY" bracket implies something stumbling and happily ramshackle, and while this may have been the case in Mazes’ chrysalis years, they’ve, whether intentionally or not, shaken it off with the second release 'Ores & Minerals'.

For an album recorded in bedrooms and pub lounges, it has a unique and exciting clarity. Tactful production went easy on the polish, meaning the Manchester-born band’s raw noise-pop credentials are still intact, but they’ve thrown a bold curveball from debut ‘A Thousand Heys’.

The inspiration behind ‘Ores’ is dangerously disparate; In some cases the band uses seven minutes of song to leapfrog entire decades worth of musical influences. It was an approach Fat Cat Records bought, and in the height of the promo trail, tonight sees the band itching to showcase the fruits of their labour.

In raw instrumental talent alone, there’s no doubt about something - on a live platform, they’re tight. Their incredible cohesion owes a notable debt to drummer Neil, his beats easily flipping between the rolling and steady to motorik pattering. But singer Jack and bassist Conan interlink fluidly too. The band are simply about ambitious musicianship, funny given they’re often compared to old slacker rock bands.

Actually, in their Spartan aesthetic approach Mazes can be compared to first-era Lou Barlow Dinosaur Jr. but, along with a quiet youthful candour, that’s where the likeness ends. Being pigeon-holed is not on the agenda for Mazes - their hurtling set pays testament to this.

'Bodies' opens the proceedings in the same way it does on 'Ores & Minerals' - at full pelt but with understated indie-pop steadfastness. Not surprisingly it’s a set heavy on new material. Tracks like ‘Bite’ highlight the band’s bold divergent ethos. It melds the staccato guitar bites of punk with the grubby base of post-hardcore. Throw in some kraut-ish grooves and you’re onto something golden.

Their fizzling enthusiasm for playing new tracks for the first time live makes for some masterful theatrics and a penchant for the build-up similar to wig-out beasts, Battles. The set crescendos as a whole, swelling with each track, impressive given songs like 'Jaki' are all about louche '90s sway. A choral segue slices up the track, elevating it to a higher strata.

Closer ‘Skulking’ has an irresistible '60s guitar hook that builds from a gentle headnod to full-body spasms. Jack takes a step back, flexing his raw digits before plucking his way into a stadium rock instrumental - goosebump-raising stuff. This is a band responding to soapy notions that guitar music has kicked the bucket with a boyish two-fingered salute. Those ready to dismiss the discipline need look no further than Mazes as a reason to invest a little more optimism.


Words by Natalie Hardwick


Follow Clash: