Blue Wall - No Hot Ashes

Owain Paciuszko 04/09/2008

Rating: 4/5

It's sometimes strange, the difference between hearing a band on record and hearing a band live. The members of the 'rock' society at my old Uni seemed to hate the concept of live music as it sounded different to the recordings, and this, I thought, was its appeal!? Anyway, I digress, Cardiff art-school avant-garde post-punk three-piece Blue Wall have this strange distinction and I am surprised that it is the recordings I favour, and glad I heard them first.

Their current two track CD has a blatant Talking Heads influence, yet it does not sound like a band acting out an imitation, there's a certain wonky charm to the opening stop-start warning advice of No Hot Ashes, like somebody singing a 'Safety At Work' pamphlet. Tom (lead vocals and guitar) states that 'my lyrics are pretty jittery. I sing about love, bad footwear, scattered bodyparts and modern paranoia. Just the things I see on TV really.' The more insightful aspects of the band come across on Efforts To Change Somebody, 'I like that honest approach to songwriting' Tom continues, 'I listen to David Byrne or The Mules or even Xiu Xiu and I appreciate their confused honesty.'

'We're interested in strange behaviour and psychology, and we try and portray it in the music,' Andy (bass) chips in. The instrumentation matches that psychological approach on the second track especially, wandering like a stream-of-consciousness and fitting the observation of an erratic person trying to understand another. This analytical approach stems from Tom's childhood, 'I sang in choirs and got severely bullied for it, but it was well worth it. It kind of helps when singing and playing guitar, and probably made me pretty neurotic in the process.' And whilst Tom's lyrical observations are sharp and erudite Andy's concerns are elsewhere; 'I don't listen to lyrics in depth, I just like the sounds!... We hardly use any effects - we want it clean and minimalist most of the time. I want my bass to sound bouncy with a bit of "weird".'

Live there seems to be more of a ruckus to their music, for all its flits and changes on record, it sounds a little more cacophonous and ramshackle, and though it is not bad, the tightness of the songs on the record work far better than the loosened live versions I heard. It is a minimal release, but one that promises a lot in its short running time.

Tom summarises; 'As a 3-piece, it's pretty easy to get songs going. Except when Ollie (drums) buggers off to Cornwall, where he is now...we're looking for a polarised sound: bass nice and low, guitar nice and high, and then we try and interlock it all. Ollie fills in the gaps, and we make a lot of noise. I dunno if that's apparent in the songs. The only difficult thing is fitting all our equipment into a VW Golf.'

Andy concludes; 'We need a Volvo.'