October 17, 2021

Rangda inspire a frenzy of beard-stroking at The Brudenell Social Club 18/07/2016

I don’t think I’ve seen so many people sitting on the floor at a gig since I put Here and Now (a Gong-related band, attracting hippies) on at Leeds University some time in the 1980’s. At least the place didn’t smell of patchouli oil and dope. But Rangda are the antithesis of the sounds hippies liked – belonging to the noisier and experimental sounds of the eternal counter-culture. Sir Richard Bishop plays surf guitar or Middle-Eastern figures, Ben Chesney (best known for his work as 6 Organs Of Admittance) plays choppy and distorted rock guitar, while Chris Corsano is a jazz drummer tonight but sparring partner with any number of musicians the rest of the time. Busy with other projects, it has taken them four years to release their latest album. Luckily they haven’t delayed in touring it.

Half the Vibracathedral Orchestra
Half the Vibracathedral Orchestra

Preceded tonight by Neil Cambell and Michael Flower from local legends, The Vibracathedral Orchestra (who Corsano has worked with). Electronics are fiddled with, tone variations are coaxed from a guitar and a hypnotic trance is built. The stage is set for rapt attention and thought.

Chris Corsano plays it jazzy
Chris Corsano plays it jazzy

Opening with a very speedy three-minute straightforward rock number, Chasney rips a huge rock guitar solo. A track from the new album follows, with coloured notes from Bishop, flavoured of Tuareg blues and mariachi and accompanied by obsessed martial drumming. This band doesn’t really do accompaniment; the pieces are for a threesome, each with a part composed. They also don’t do chat – there is only one mic stand on stage and Sir Richard uses it solely to make requests of the soundman. No “hello Leeds”, no “we wrote this when….”. They get on, play the tunes, tune up a great deal between songs (Ben likes to alter tuning mid-solo too….) and get off an hour later. No messing with fripperies or encores. The audience soaks it up, listening intently, occasionally breaking into head nods with a heavier piece and leaving in puzzlement when no encore is presented.

Sir Richard Bishop focusses and Corsano taps it out
Sir Richard Bishop focusses as Corsano taps it out

Playing is of the highest order: the Eastern and Surf stylings of Bishop being thoughtful and Chasney’s stabbing and heroic rock solos, inspired. Still, the Maillot Jaune of this Tour De Brudenell goes to Chris Corsano’s amazing precision and jazz-like improvisation. Nothing flashy, just clever and righteous. Lots of styles are here in the band: a raga opening, lengthy noodling, heavy Mexicana, shredding on the sustain pedal. Tune duration builds to lengthier pieces and a tentative definition of the band emerges – a band that likes to jam, a band that does jazz, a band that works outside nearly everyone’s expectations.

Ben Chasney prepares a shred
Ben Chasney prepares a shred

A band to make you think, a band to make you stroke your chin, a clever band that knows that music is about more than rock, more than songs and more than euphoric release.

Still – a word of greeting or farewell would have been nice…….