Squid’s Shape-Shifting Sound Tells a Story at Music Hall of Williamsburg
March 24, 2022
Squid – Music Hall of Williamsburg – March 23, 2022
There’s a special thrill in seeing a band live for the first time, a thrill that can be incredibly enhanced if it’s a band you haven’t even heard before. I wonder if there was anyone else experiencing the sound of Brighton, UK band Squid for the first time at Music Hall of Williamsburg on Wednesday night like I was. For me, the thrill was dizzying, almost nauseating in its fun. If their music was a metaphoric fruit smoothie, different flavors and ingredients blended into a thick deliciousness, then the thrill of seeing them live for the first time wasn’t so much getting to taste the smoothie as it was feeling like you were inside the blender itself as the mixing was going on around you, high-speed rotation and gyrations of genre and rhythm being broken down into ever finer pieces.
The band ranged across the front of the stage, drummer Ollie Judge in the center, with guitars, bass, synth and percussion extending out from his centroid. The set started with a bubbling dense sound, a foreboding quiet that soon exploded in an array of dueling prog-rock guitars. It was only the beginning but a harbinger of what was to come. Interludes were filled with speckles of synth and sound effects, a deep rumble of bass, until a demented Talking Heads groove came in and out of focus, Judge singing, “I’m falling in, I’m falling out” as if to enhance the dizziness of “Peel St.,” the groove evaporating into swaths of evil cinematic sounds then total thrash. Later sections of melodic beauty battled straight jangle-guitar post-punk, like the Sea and Cake transforming into Parquet Courts and back again.
It could have been one song, it could have been five, but with each hairpin turn or roller-coaster build-to-peak and free fall, the packed audience yawped with glee, eager to keep up with the expert shapeshifting. Punk turned to dark ambient electronica, guitars to synthesizers, red lights pulsing to match the mood, horns emerged from hiding places for brief atmospherics only to disappear again. At times, it felt like everyone onstage was beating a drum or percussion, inescapable, dance-ready rhythms. At others, the compositions took center stage with stretches of rock and roll symphonic sounds. To a new listener, the sheer density could have easily come across as overladen, but the changes and constant transformations in Squid’s sound told a story, and an especially thrilling one at that. —A. Stein | @Neddyo
Photos courtesy of Adela Loconte | www.adelaloconte.com