New War opened tonight’s proceedings at The Toff in Town, delivering a set of their own brand of atmospheric post-punk. While the rhythm section+ were incredible, bass and drums locked in together, pounding out every groove, their overall sound was let down by the other two instruments, keyboard and vocals. The keys player repeated a distorted frenetic attack throughout most of the material, which resulted in little more than cacophony, while the vocalist similarly relied on reverb effects, which after a while just seemed like an easy place for the musicians to hide and the resulting set felt unoriginal. Never mind, that’s why they call them support acts.
As the curtains closed, the crowd moved forward, jostling for positions. After a short break, the fabric was once again lifted as Teeth and Tongue moved to their stage positions. Less of a band than a solo vehicle for singer/songwriter Jess Cornelius, tonight’s version featured Marc Regueiro-Mckelvie on guitar and Damian Sullivan on bass and percussion. Cornelius herself, adorned in a floral jumpsuit, sang and played guitar whilst controlling a drum machine via a foot pedal, which is also the manner in which Tambourine, the second album under the T & T moniker, and the reason for this evening’s show, was recorded.
Jess Cornelius is blessed with an incredible voice which she uses in an original and daring manner, imbuing her delivery with an art-pop theatricality that is also evident in her stage manner. She has obviously labored to create the heavy, layered sound that typifies Tambourine, for which neither of the descriptors of ‘rock’ or ‘pop’ would be adequate, although both are sonic ingredients. It seems that in the three years since Monobasic, Cornelius has concentrated her efforts and found a new sound, mostly by stripping away band members and building her arrangements around the 505 drum machine and assorted guitar pedals. In fact, considering that there were only three musicians on stage, the thickness of the layered sound was mesmerising, as the group performed the new album almost from start to finish.
Towards the end of the show Cornelius switched from guitar to keyboard, resulting in a slightly more vulnerable, yet still intense sound. It was on this instrument that she also delivered the encore, being the single from Monobasic, ‘There is a Lightness to My Bones’, which stood out as having quite a different feel from the rest of the set, perhaps a sign of the degree to which Cornelius has evolved her sound since that song’s release.
Teeth and Tongue are an exciting group and their album launch tonight at The Toff was an absolute treat, proving that there are still so many ways to innovate within the confines of pop music, a fact for which we are all better off.
– Alex Watts