Astral Tusk II | Live Review & Photoset

7th June | Gallimaufry

Photos: Khali Ackford

After a foot-stomping debut in April, the Astral Tuskers are back at it again with their second instalment, showcasing some of Bristol’s finest examples of the experimental jazz scene. A helpful dosage of some gut-churning reverb, heavenly chord progressions and groovy beats – what’s not to love?  The atmosphere was electric with punters filling The Gallimaufry and DJ Notsoever playing non-stop hits, building up to the first act of the night.

Performing under his alias of Sublunary, barefoot bandit, Alun Elliot-Williams sits centre stage with an army of pedals and two amps either side of him, creating a panoramic effect. The low jangle of the intro seeps throughout the venue; the crowd is silent and marvelling at Alun’s seamlessly sonic set. A soft amount of reverb echoes delicately before things are cranked up into fifth gear with a heavy and jarring chord progression, all amalgamating into a beast of a tune. The tension rises and the song echoes that of an experimental prog rock number.

Laden with effect pedals, Alun creates a cinematic atmosphere that is otherworldly. His slick single-plucking of notes mimics that of morse code; its minimalism is striking and silences the audience. It feels as though I am watching an intense car chase scene in a film. Alun’s a true craftsman and his solo work is charged with texture and flourishes of the avant garde. He performs an intoxicating arsenal of songs before leaving the crowd stunned and speechless.

Next on the bill, playing their first ever gig tonight (insane!), are Lyrebird – a contemporary jazz-fusion sound which has been drenched in gigantic sax riffs and frantic drum fills. It consists of Alun (ready for his second performance of the night), Dave Sanders of Snazzback on sax and James Vine and Harry Stoneham of Waldo’s Gift on drums and bass.

“A Lyrebird mimics the sound of a chainsaw. It’s where city meets nature,” Dave Sanders announces before a jangly riff ricochets throughout the room. A silky smooth sax riff from Dave soon follows, with a meltingly good bass line from Harry. Lyrebird weave some new-wave influences whilst still heavily rooted in jazz and folk. Their opening number is angular and most definitely packs a punch. You never know what avenue it will take next.

Their unpredictable set is thrilling and full of gigantic riffs, intertwining different genres from an 8-bit style prog section to manipulating a recording of a Dylan Thomas poem, all amalgamating into one frantic blended brew. As far as first gigs go, Lyrebird totally kill it, a picturesque folk sound with plenty of beefy jazz. Keep your eyes peeled for when this bird next takes flight.

The Gallimaufry is buzzing with bodies, all in ecstasy after witnessing Lyrebird’s performance. Last on the bill are trio, Sketch On Glass. It’s once in a blue moon that these guys play and when they do, it’s something special to witness. Featuring Alfie Grieve of Feelgood Experiment on trumpet, along with James and Harry from Waldo’s Gift, with James jokingly saying, “You’ve seen Harry perform already tonight, he’s on his Windows XP this time.”

Harry has seemingly brought along his entire PC, along with plenty of synths and effects. An impressive and euphoric hour-long set of improvised dance music then follows. Steady, off-beat drums and a helpful dosage of electronics gets people grooving. Sketch On Glass are unlike anything I’ve witnessed in Bristol thus far. Their set is fuelled by energizing dance beats and beefy treble (I wrote in my notes at one point, ‘actually filthy’).

Throw in some spacey sound effects, a few trumpet solos and a gnarly drum breakdown and you’ve got a recipe for a frenzied set. One thing would evolve into the next, whether it be a Fatima Yamaha-esque beat or reggae, impressive is an understatement. To top this off Doug Cave from Hippo joins on stage with a screeching sax solo, all amalgamating into a jazz-dance hysteria.

This instalment of Astral Tusk is tantalising. There are more electronica influences as well as more varied crossovers of genres. Who knows what the next event might hold? Keep your eyes peeled for the third dosage from the Tuskers.