Dim the lights and fire up the smoke machine. In Cardiff supporting Crack Cloud, Beauty Parlour’s set traces an aesthetically satisfying sonic arc, beginning with ambient abstraction before moving through a selection of Bauhaus-does-disco darkwave thumpers, and then returning to spaced-out synths. The beats and bass may come and go, but there’s no letup in the moody intensity.
Vancouver’s Crack Cloud are less a band and more a self-help group or drug rehab programme – and that’s not the only unusual thing about them. On stage, for instance, drummer/vocalist Zach Choy is stationed front and centre, with the bassist stood behind his back – an ambitious arrangement for a band whose sound is founded on rhythm. Meanwhile, keyboard player and fellow founder member Aleem Khan is a crazed, shirtless shaman – possibly still in character from the video shoot for recent single Tough Baby, which saw them dressed as cavemen.
The nebulous Canadian collective’s signature song is Swish Swash: initially staccato and spasmodic, before unspooling like a Talking Heads track stuck on repeat. Tonight, that compelling oddity assumes its rightful place in the encore – but by that point, I must admit I’ve largely zoned out. The appeal of their art-rock/postpunk polka has gradually palled, not helped by the lack of any effort at crowd engagement. Blank out that unconventional back story, and it feels as though we’re being sold an inferior version of something that the likes of Squid and Black Country, New Road already do very well.
Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff, Sun 24 July
words and photos BEN WOOLHEAD
Correction: a previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the keyboardist’s name is Mohammad Ali Sharar.
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