It’s not a night for banter. There’s three bands playing the Green Door Store tonight and they manage maybe a sentence between them. It’s hardly surprising given we’re at one of the darkest shows the venue has put on in a while. We’re not talking about the lighting: Brighton’s Fvnerals have just released a debut album full of ambient doom and they’ve brought along some friends to celebrate. Even the gig poster succeeds in looking sinister and it’s just a picture of a Christmas tree.
First up are Vincent Vocoder Voice, a five-piece whose controlled cacophony can only be the product of a deeply wayward vision of art rock. At times they have four guitars on the go, which might seem excessive if the overlapping parts weren’t so skilfully bound to the songs’ dead-tight dynamics. Having kicked off with the comparatively catchy ‘The Unbearable Heaviness Of Having’, the set closes with a mid-tempo fidgety dirge that probably wouldn’t work in any other context.
When VVV’s spluttering dreadnought packs up, Pink Lizards’ bluesy rock’n’roll bounces into the room, but immediately falls a little flat – despite the rate-of-fire of the trio’s psych rock riffs. It’s not that the band aren’t ballsy, it’s just the slick rock chick thing can’t compete in the wake of the previous support’s ground zero approach to songwriting. When Fvnerals pipe up, it’s clear the whole gig has gone against the normal flow of things: we started aggressively loud and have finally been reduced to a whisper. Then again, it’s hard to see how their atmospheric ambience would ever work out well in a regular support slot. It’s too demanding for that, but give yourself over to it and it’s rather glorious. Though the term ‘headliners’ feels wrong, the timing doesn’t.
With sparse spidery guitar parts, even sparser drum work and a synth seemingly stuck on an organ setting, this trio make music that’s abstract and detached but also entrancing. Though one could argue there’s never been a more aptly named band, Fvnerals’ minimalist drones do more than just provide a kind of gothic soundscape: they’re ultimately soothing rather than scary. And when the drums rise to the occasion, the stretched crescendos deliver a genuine cathartic hit. We can’t work out a word she sings, but Tiffany the lead singer has a low-register tone that only heightens the mesmerising flow of the songs. Even if she had felt the need, banter wouldn’t have worked at all.
Green Door Store, Saturday 20th December 2014
Words by Ben Bailey
Photos by Ajit Dutta