Brudenell Social Club, Leeds 2nd November 2019
The psychedelic tradition of San Francisco is in safe hands with Erik Johnson and Sanae Yamada. The husband and wife team played a consistent ninety minute set at The Brudenell, with no dry moments and no let up. A constant noodling guitar threaded through the electronics, keyboard bass lines, drums and vocals. True to their mission, everything was buried; the vocals, the guitar, the impact – standing behind the mixing desk it looked like they’d removed two key frequencies for vocal attack. The result was a deeply trippy sound, allied to great drum patterns.
The addition of a live drummer is a major factor in the impelling sound and much of the impetus depends on his liquid flow but the lights are what people will remember. Hidden behind a sheet of gauze, a constant flow of lights flashes across the gauze and three screens behind, in a 3-D display, revealing only flashes of the band. Yamada’s hair waves as her head shakes, Johnson’s beard juts out. The sound is terrific and constant, and the drums at times remind me of French groovers, The Limianas. Like them, they aren’t chatty, with a few comments distorted, drowned in reverb and lost in the mix, with the only clear words being “thank you for coming out tonight, we’ve got one more”. Then it’s back on the beat with a glam rock sound.
Like Wooden Shjips, Johnson’s guitar is a motile fluid thing, always soloing but never grandstanding. This set is to be preferred to his recent one in Leeds with Wooden Shjips for its purity of vision, its constancy of sticking to the groove, however repetitive; keeping at it till it becomes interesting. They prove it with an encore of Suicide’s Jukebox Baby, pumping Alan Vega’s rock and roll mantra till it is the ever-cycling chant of the original. Percussion and patterns rule tonight and the audience is very happy.