Gaz Coombes at Union Chapel
It’s been 17 years since Gaz Coombes first entered he public conscience as part of much-loved indie-rock outfit Supergrass. Coombes rocketed to stardom with catchy melodies and witty lyrics, becoming a reigning Britpop star of the 90s. Tonight, however, Coombes promises “something different, something a bit special” and as darkness falls on stage at the Union Chapel and a heavy bass throbs through the pews, all ears are poised to hear his latest offering.
Part of a four-day church tour, Coombes’s concert at Union Chapel is part of an initiative to play music in “beautiful and interesting venues”, and the chapel is just that. Its lofty ceilings, illuminated stained glass and flickering candlelight provide the perfect milieu for these atmospheric soundscapes. The set centres on debut solo album Here Come the Bombs – a heady mix of fluttering acoustics and spare electronics that give an uncanny sense of discomposure and rumination. White Noise and Hot Fruit open the night – dizzy acoustic tracks that drift along with cheery ease. Whore and Sub Divider showcase Coombes’s foray into the world of Electronica: a web of pumping bass and quivering synths accented by strident piano chords and cinematic drums, the tracks swell into a discordant clamour that echoes hauntingly from the chapel’s stone walls.
These tracks exhibit what Coombes names his new “weird and freaked out” sound. However, this attempt to distinguish himself from the pop-rock of his past does, at some points, feel slightly lost. In Sleeping Giants the soundscape dominates the song, transporting it into rather abstract territory. The indistinct electronic echoes bleed into each other quashing any distinctive tune or melody and leave a mass of sound that is occasionally overwhelming.
Despite this, the newer offerings, littered throughout the set, show a more experienced understanding of the power that electronic sounds can hold. One of These Days uses fast skipping drums and high sustained strings to give an airy feel while heavy bass leaks out beneath the brightness. The genius that is Buffalo artfully builds up dissonant sounds and screeching vocals that suddenly dissipate into heavy guitar riffs. If these new songs are anything to go by, we can only expect great things from Gaz Coombes as he finds his way through this new abstract sound.
Photos: Helen Parish
For further information and future events visit Gaz Coombes’s website here.
Watch the video for Buffalo here: