Review: Gulfer + TTNG @ Il Motore

Math was on the menu Monday night at Il Motore, where bands Gulfer, Mylets, TTNG (This Town Needs Guns), and And So I Watch You From Afar all played raging sets, presenting the usual pillars of math-rock: odd time signatures, sudden tempo changes, and bi-polar tunes.

The music often oscillated between surging sing-along vocals and driving guitar tapping from the musicians on stage, delivering tight and cohesive performances.

The venue was full and alive during sets, yet the Monday night blues could be felt in the room, with the audience being quiet and timid between songs.

Montreal’s own Gulfer opened the show and warmed the room up despite the cold and rainy autumn evening. Known for their energy and drive, the members wasted no time in getting their hands dirty with the delivery of a solid performance.

Aggressive guitar riffs, coercive drums, and intricate bass lines weaving in and out of what seemed to be a deliberately crafted sonic chaos is what really makes the guys from Gulfer stand apart.

The band recently added a fourth member to the lineup—guitarist Steven Whitelay, formerly of Head Honcho—and the addition did not disappoint. Playing their first show as a four piece, Steven’s driving tapping lines coupled with the already intricate synergy of the other members made for a fitting addition.

“Not only does a fourth member really fill out our sound in general,” said bassist David Mitchell, “but Steven in particular just adds a really unique approach and perspective. Plus he plays trumpet which is a really cool little bonus.”

The unconventional use of the trumpet throughout their set added a soothing touch to the scattered and ever changing math soundscape behind them.

Los Angeles-based record label Sargent House generously took care of the crowd for the rest of the evening, flaunting some of the most well-known acts on its roster. The highlight of the night was without a doubt TTNG’s long-awaited full-length set.

Hailing from Oxford, United Kingdom, TTNG—formerly known as This Town Needs Guns—are considered by many to be pioneers in the math rock genre, and with good reason.

The release of a few EPs by the band in the mid 2000s—_Hippy Jam Fest_ and the self-titled _This Town Needs Guns_—quickly garnered attention and put the musicians on the map.

The full LP release of Animals in 2008 was a defining moment in the band’s sound and progress and equally served as a definite sign that they were here to stay.

After a few lineup changes, including the addition of Henry Tremain—formerly from Pennines—on bass and vocals, TTNG released, their second full-length LP.

The band has been steadily touring Europe and North America since its release last January, and Montreal’s Il Motore has been lucky enough to receive them twice in roughly the past six months.

“This is rad. This is possibly the most polite show I’ve ever been to…and I’m playing it!” said frontman Henry Tremain to an eerily quiet crowd while tuning his modified baritone guitar between songs.

The energy that couldn’t be felt between sets was quickly overshadowed by the small pit that formed every time TTNG would launch back into their tunes. The skill and complexity that TTNG played with is unmatched by many.

Guitarist Tim Collis weaves his finger picking style smooth as silk, completing an unhealthy amount of pull offs and hammer ons that would without a doubt exacerbate your own arthritis.

Collis’ signature melodic and timid guitar lines created from unconventional tunings mix seamlessly with Tremain’s sparse and complex syncopated bass lines—far from an easy task considering the complexity of playing and singing simultaneously.

The rhythm section was supported by the encompassing drums of percussionist Chris Collis as people from the crowd attempted to tap their feet in confusion to the ever changing time signatures and tempos.

Collis’ playing speaks for itself with his array of loud, deep and usually fast-paced beats coupled with symbol tricks and the witty use of his hi-hat—a trait appreciated by the crowd as the band blasted through their final track “26 is Dancier Than 4” with the help of sing alongs from the crowd and a few body surfers.

A satisfied and dedicated audience could be seen leaving the venue Monday evening. Despite the reserved nature of the crowd, the show itself was filled with energy from all acts and it manifested itself with the crowd throughout the sets.

TTNG are currently finishing up their North American tour with only a few more shows left while Gulfer currently signed to Montreal-based Stack Your Roster record label will continue to bang out more shows and a possible new release by the end of year.

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