“We killed guitars,” boast Spectres on their Twitter bio. We’re not exactly sure what this means, but death, it transpires, is to be a dominant theme at Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar tonight. Four Spectres haunt the stage; four beards dimly illuminated in red and purple; two Fender Jaguars; one singer with a two-note vocal range.
The Bristol indie-noise rockers are here touring their debut LP, ‘Dying’, which came out last month on the Sonic Cathedral label. It’s an intense record, containing nothing that could realistically pass itself off as a tune. But while you might not be whistling it in Sainsbury’s, sonically it’s right on the money. Think Sonic Youth, early Mary Chain, even Swervedriver… then go several shades darker.
They open with ‘When Flies Sleep’, track two from the album; the one you might have heard on BBC 6 Music. After that we’re lost; everything merges into a wall of slamming feedback and juddering delay. A few people float away from the stage. Not because it’s loud (the volume is surprisingly restrained); more likely because this is not the kind of music they were expecting. Fair enough. Not everyone digs abstract noise (but hey, that in itself is part of the appeal of abstract noise).
Midway through the set you begin to suspect Spectres are not the finished article. But this is not necessarily a bad thing. Their sound will have no choice but to evolve, because (excellent though it is) they won’t get away with making another LP like ‘Dying’ without imploding like a moribund star. They’ll need to introduce more light and shade… dare we say, more “variety”. But that’ll come in time. For now, it’s great to hear a band with no desire to compromise; with no interest in crowd-pleasing or disingenuous charisma.
Towards the end, it finally starts to get loud and things spark into life. It’s the best bit. As they exit the stage, a scrap of paper is left behind. Scribbled on it is a setlist, featuring the guitar tunings for each track. The fact that the guitars were tuned to specific musical notes raises an affectionate chuckle. We assumed they were just thumping the strings and letting the pedals take care of the rest.
“I want that last track played at my funeral,” says a guy near us as we stagger out into Middle Street, safe in the knowledge that everything will be back to normal tomorrow. Yes, we’ll be able to drink tea and watch breakfast television and it’ll all be fine. Our demons have been exorcised. Nobody died. Everything is going to be fine.