LISTING SHIPS – The Hayling Island Sessions

You wanna bit of instrumental rock action? Tight AND fluid, amped by post-punk sparks and propulsive bass? Then clamber up on Oxford’s Listing Ships.

Having had the privilege of seeing these guys live – one of those supercharged support slots where a band you’ve never heard before just blows your head for half an hour – I can say that, despite the sombre motions their name infers, they’re not afraid to let it fly. Proficient and ambitious yet in no way ramming 10-ton egos in yerface, it’s no surprise they’ve become a bit of a fixture at Audioscope in recent years.

Describing themselves as ‘nautically-inspired post-krautrock’, your first thought on listening to the Hayling Island Sessions is … where’s the latter? Watery themes abound, there’s no doubting that – track titles include American Steam Company, The 100 Gun Ship, Baychimo and Then Venice Sank so you get the idea – but even the barest of classic Neu! grooves on endless repeat ain’t here, nor is the loose-limbed fringe funk a la Can. Maybe it emerges more blatantly on subsequent records or maybe the post tag renders all references void but this much is true: there’s zero scope for trancing out and drifting off here. First, the tracks aren’t long enough. Second, they’re just too restless to lock onto a single repetitive hook.

Opening track Alba Adriatica builds from Explosions in the Sky delicacy to climactic fuzz-out and it’s a hard-rocking start but really, it’s when you get to American Steam Company that these Sessions REALLY kick off.

Fugazi must be an influence, or at least an inspiration. Voluminous, rolling basslines wooze while guitars surge and break with the same roomy dynamism as the Dischord giants, deftly shifting from impending turbulence in the first half to sheltered calm in the second. Then Venice Sank flits between paranoid twitchfunk skitter and wind-tunnel oomph – massive, a proper highlight. Equus Ager takes you from melodic promise to Pumpkins-esque overload without you even noticing.

So while the Hayling Island Sessions isn’t an epic in duration terms – 7 tracks proper plus the dialogue/drone skit Nutcracker Six and two remixes (the Rackham mix and the Karhide Bass Bass mix) – there are more than enough ideas jammed into these taut, multi-part pieces to keep it fresh after a stack of listens. Definitely a worthy intro to a band who WILL be on a stage near you soon.

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