Live Review: Youth Pictures of Florence Henderson and Magnets at West Track Studios

Live Review: Youth Pictures of Florence Henderson and Magnets at West Track Studios

Magnets

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Finding West Track studios is not easy. In fact a walk up Canterbury’s Roper Road brings you nowhere, and we had to backtrack on ourselves to actually find the correct ‘dodgy alley’ that the studio was meant to be situated on. In the end what InQuire found was a setting about as intimate as your mates living room. In fact the studios had a fully fitted kitchen, and a couch in the performance space. The rules were BYOB so there were several bearded folk and plaid shirted ladies sipping from cans of lager. In short, it was the natural urban habitat in which you could find the bands Magnets or Youth Pictures of Florence Henderson performing.

Magnets, a local Canterbury band now on their 3rd EP, opened the set with a new track, spilling their melodic shoegaze into the room from monitors only an ear destroying distance away from the audience. The effect with this kind of fuzz coated rock in a live setting, especially one as intimate as this, simply can’t be gained on a studio recorded album. This is the fourth time InQuire has seen Magnets in Canterbury and we are nowhere near tiring of their live performance. The lead singer battled on with an alleged hangover, delivering falsetto vocals over heavy shoegaze, backed up by some practiced and precise harmonies. We suggest you check out some of what Magnets is doing on their bandcamp page, we anticipate big things.

When headliners Youth Pictures of Florence Henderson take to the stage (or, the end of the room that is pretending to be a stage for the afternoon) they take up nearly every inch of it, with a drummer, cellist, bassist, four guitarists and an impressive array of pedals between them. Bands with lots of guitars are usually known for the noise they can make, but with Youth Pictures the set-up is astonishingly delicate. It helps that they don’t always all play at the same time, and the band’s use of distortion is restrained – an admirable trait amongst the hordes of modern post-rock bands who think that a slow build and layers of noise are a sure ticket to a satisfying climax.

Youth Pictures start their set with Let’s Rent Bikes from 1942, which pretty much encapsulates their sound. Threads of guitar weave around each other in a polyphonous, intimate dance. Yearning vocals that recall the best of 90s emo (when people still remembered that emo meant ‘emotional hardcore’, not ear-splitting pop-punk) by turns float and claw their way over the top. The sound is captured with impeccable accuracy for venue so small and DIY; even as the song reaches breaking point, the harmonies growing denser and more desperate, harsh backing yelps enter the mix, no part is lost in the ether.

The set proceeds as it began. Highlights include To Sit Down or to Follow, So I Follow and newer song Now You Know. Really there aren’t any dips in the quality. Youth Pictures songs are all reliant on strong melodies as much as they are on brewing atmosphere, which translates particularly well live. Sure, you can lose yourself in swirling guitars and swells towards the finish mark, but you can also latch on to an infectious vocal line, snappy drums or beautifully balanced guitar hook.

The band seem invested in their performance as well, making use of what little space they have to move. You have to marvel at the dedication and love that it must take for them to come all the way from Norway to play in a re-purposed studio on a back street of a tiny city to less than 50 people. We’re very grateful to them for doing it.

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