Live in hometown Bristol

You’d be forgiven for thinking that Gravenhurst are a gloomy bunch. Let’s not forget that one song on their 2005 album, Fires In Distant Buildings, features a character mulling over their own murder, imagining their body dumped in a river. It’s not exactly The Beach Boys.

Tonight in the Bristol Fleece, the mood couldn’t be more different. Back on home territory at the end of their UK tour, the band are on relaxed form. Following a strong opening set by new Warp-signees Pivot (cool, droney soundscapes ahoy) the ‘Hurst, as they’re probably never called, take to the stage and launch into ‘The Western Lands’, the gunslinging instrumental from their recent album of the same name. It’s a fine start that sets the tone for the first half of the show. They follow it with a mix of songs from their most recent records, ranging from the dreamy space rock of ‘She Dances’ to the heavier noise attacks of ‘Down River’.

But there are problems that threaten to spoil the atmosphere. Despite being a fairly small venue, The Fleece only appears to be half-full. The crowd are clearly into it, but that doesn’t stop the place from feeling a little empty. Worse, there are two big, heavy doors that slam noisily every few minutes as people slope off for a fag.

Battling against these setbacks, the band move into the gentler, finger-picked folk of the original Gravenhurst sound. Singer Nick Talbot recorded those early records solo, and it’s fascinating to hear them beefed up with added guitars. A genuinely lovely ‘Tunnels’ is quickly followed by ‘Damage 2’, one of Talbot’s finest songs. It’s an impressive reminder that this band is capable of devastating the listener with melody as well as their frequent barrages of noise.

Intense, melancholic and beautifully unsettling, Gravenhurst are consistently interesting and frequently thrilling. Quite why these guys aren’t massive by now is anyone’s guess.

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