Formed four years ago but denied the opportunity to hone their live act for much of that time by the pandemic, Damefrisør have nevertheless already perfected the art of set construction. Tonight the Bristolians start in disarming fashion – slow and serene, impressionist guitar anchored by bass and overlaid with Kazhi Jahfar’s lugubrious Ian Curtis baritone. But gradually they turn the dial further and further to the right with tracks from February’s impressive Island Of Light EP, electronics becoming more perceptible, and by the end there’s a fever-pitch intensity to 2-HEH-V. It’s like witnessing a shoegaze band being eaten alive by postpunk.
BDRMM also began life in thrall to My Bloody Valentine, releasing much-feted 2020 debut LP Bedroom on shoegaze aficionados’ label of choice Sonic Cathedral. But this year’s followup I Don’t Know marked a significant evolution – not quite a complete abandonment of heady guitar swirl, but certainly a marked diversification of interests.
That much is immediately underlined tonight by the fact that they open with the album’s first three tracks, played in order: the moody, club-adjacent Alps, the loping, elasticated groover Be Careful and the tempestuous joyride It’s Just A Bit Of Blood – the latter a song that, in anyone else’s hands, would be closing out proceedings. Gradually, the older material creeps into the set, with Gush and a majestic version of Forget The Credits particularly notable. Perhaps the new songs aren’t yet trusted to bear the weight of bringing things to a climax, though they surely will be. Not that anyone’s complaining.
There were signs on Bedroom that BDRMM weren’t your average static shoegaze mumblers staring through fringes at a cornucopia of effects pedals, and this evening – fresh from a night off after a run of five shows – they meet the challenge of entertaining a rowdy Saturday Clwb crowd with aplomb, as a bona fide rock band. You wouldn’t catch Slowdive performing with a shirtless guitarist, encouraging stadium rock handclapping, whipping up a moshpit or passing round a bottle of whisky for those at the front to drain, would you?
And to think this tour nearly didn’t happen. In September, reeling from the blow of an unpaid festival fee and the increased cost of playing live, BDRMM were forced to launch a crowdfunder. So tonight it’s wonderful to see them – and the audience – relishing every second.
BDRMM + Damefrisør, Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff, Sat 18 Nov
words BEN WOOLHEAD