The Holydrug Couple/Horsebeach live review for Silent Radio

The competition for ‘Who’s travelled the furthest to be here’ has a clear winner tonight; While The Holydrug Couple (Ives Sepúlveda and Manuel Parra) hail all the way from Santiago, Chile, Manchester-based Horsebeach (Ryan Kennedy) linger at the bottom of the pile being based in Manchester. Not all is lost though – I am the night’s winner of ‘First to spill their pint over themselves’.

It’s a half-room-full affair tonight at The Soup Kitchen. The much-hyped Manchester heroes Horsebeach have drawn in the stragglers from upstairs for what could be perceived to be a modest support slot. Ever since their self titled debut LP release last year, this band has been creating quite the buzz and have gained comparisons to Brooklyn’s indie princes Real Estate and even made it on to Piccadilly Records’ albums of 2014 list.

The four piece’s set is brief; they’re only on stage for half an hour but get through about six songs, even squeezing in a newbie, but alas neglect to say the title. Personal highlights include ‘Yesterdays’ from the LP and recent single ‘Disappear’ – their best song of the night – which sounds polished, has some lovely jangly guitars, melodies and counter melodies and tonight comes with a welcome addition of Wild Nothing-esque synths. Frontman and singer/songwriter Kennedy has developed a distinctive sound over the past year and with this recent single it feels as though the band have matured. Kennedy is calm, collected and confident. He should take centre stage in future, after spending the night cloaked in shadows with his keyboard and guitar in the corner.

The band depart the stage to enthusiastic applause, the PA blasts trip-hop; we await the arrival of the headliners. A chap behind me remarks ‘It’s getting chilly in here’. I can’t figure out if he’s actually cold or making reference to the headliners country of origin. I hope it’s the latter. We await the arrival of the next joke.

The Holydrug Couple actually turns out to be The Holydrug Quartet when they appear on stage, the first surprise from this band tonight. The second is that they’re much more of psych-rocker outfit than I’d been led to expect, reminiscent of early Pink Floyd. On their sophomore album Moonlust which was released via Sacred Bones this year, they come across as more mellow and dreamy; I was anticipating a similar sound to France’s down-tempo dream poppers Air – there is even a song on Moonlust called ‘French Movie Theme’.

Throughout their set Sepúlveda’s vocals are mostly drowned out by the cacophony of sound the band creates. Even when he speaks to the audience between songs, there is so much reverb running through his mic you can’t really tell what he says. I assume it’s a thank you: he seems like a nice guy. Don’t get me wrong, à la Kevin Parker from Tame Impala, the distant vocals are the woozy cherry on the gauzy cake of riffs and rhythm.

Fifty minutes pass seamlessly; their set is well planned and each song segues into the next. Every other song has its own wig-out ending when Sepúlveda disappears down to his many pedals and takes off into a world of noise. None so much as set ender ‘Counting Sailboats’, the intro which sounds strikingly reminiscent of ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ prompting many a whoop from the crowd. The song ends with drummer Parra, and the bass player fixed in a trance with each other and the keys player and Sepúlveda on the floor being intimate with his pedals, opening up an otherworldly gateway of sounds. It’s a brilliant and dramatic end to a brave and confident performance – an ode to French pop but with a sound too distinct and enchanted to be pigeonholed. It’s a fair journey back to South America but it’s seem a lot further back to Manchester in a beer-damped shirt.

Read the review on Silent Radio

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