Live Reviews

Live review from, July 2018

Scottish quartet Sugarwork shape powerful jazz soundscapes and urban resonances from their particularly close-knit interaction. For their first performance south of the border, arrival in Manchester was almost halted by motorway congestion woes – but their determination brought the sound of their eponymous debut album, along with some new and improvised episodes, to the festival with aplomb.

When introduced their signature waves of guitar and shifting keys with rhythm and tenor sax, leading to After the Forest, the Sky’s crunchy, looped guitar, hard-hitting dance-groove drumming and deeply-plumbed Nord bass notes – haunting and “a bit schizoid”. The band’s strength is in creating and building layers (imagine creating complex iPad imagery with differing textures and colours), and an improvised piece christened Prestige Towel Promotion, after their delay around the Garstang area, produced atmospheric knocks, bleeps, fizzes and crackles which somehow keyed into the intense heat of the arena. Spiral Confection’s reverberant bass and snappy electronic drum patterns were the basis of a heavy, relentless and even funky groove; Forlorn suggested Weather Report, as Bancroft’s full tenor glided over its landscape; and the maelstrom of Astralgia closed the set with programmed, chasing, throbbing bass – a wall of sound reminiscent of Nik Bärtsch.

Sugarwork’s performance style is focused, not showy; and the artistic vistas they fashion might suggest an opening for greater compositional diversity. Yet they have an acute sense of musicality and drive which is sure to spur them on to still higher levels.

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