Ättestupa & Tar…Feathers, Vienna Rhiz, 30 June 2009

A fine gig at the Rhiz last night with a double bill of groups from Sweden. I actually went along purely to catch the support group Ättestupa, whose début album I’ve been living with for a while now. It’s a bleak and uncanny piece of work, with dark and lowering drones folded into eerie half-melodies and distant, unresolved vocals. Sounding like the offspring of Popol Vuh and :zoviet*france:, the record also boasts some of the most distinctive artwork I’ve seen: a series of stark black-and-white photos taken in 19th century Sweden, which summon up a very real sense of hardship and tragedy.

Playing live in Vienna for the first time, Ättestupa cut loose a little more than they do on that record. The skeletal organ lines evoked another excellent (and, I’m delighted to say, now reformed) Swedish export, Sagor & Swing, albeit with Eric Malmberg’s joyful melodic inventiveness replaced by an atmosphere of chill and foreboding. For the final piece of their too-short set, the vocals (sung in Swedish, not that one could tell) hung menacingly in the air while the group’s rhythm section locked into a fearsome mantric repetition. We have certainly not heard the last of Ättestupa.

The night’s headliners Tar…Feathers were more conventionally enjoyable, although no less striking. Carrying hints of early Cure and Joy Division sonics, their songs were built around neat and tidy guitar riffs and busy, creative percussion. Like Ättestupa’s vocalist, Tar…Feathers’ Marcus Nyke didn’t much care to foreground his singing, which remained defiantly murky and unresolved throughout. But since he was in any case singing in Swedish, this was hardly a problem. Rather, it added to the sense of dislocation and disquiet that prevailed in all their songs.

David Murobi took some fine photos of the concert which can be seen here.

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