The Haunt, Brighton
Wednesday 26th September, 2018
The bouncer outside is busy checking ID and handing out wristbands to those lucky enough and old enough to buy booze legally; inside the system is playing trap to entertain the packed out crowd. The keys and bass players appear first and, after a short delay occasioned by PA malfunction, start up an ambient drone; then Yussef himself stalks onstage like a star. He doesn’t acknowledge the crowd – they respond with cheers and whoops as he picks up a vibraslap and disperses some vibes through the overheads; then he smashes straight into one of his trademark chattering beats, head swaying and locks flying; it looks as though some powerful current is forcing itself up through his torso and out through his fluorescent drumsticks, flickering like lightning between snare and hats as they build up to a tense head of kinetic energy that gets released into massive tom fills, like explosive thunderclaps. Yohan Kebede’s’s Rhodes is reverbed and delayed into an ambient wash, an upper register of tinkling ripples reminiscent of Lonnie Liston Smith in the blissed-out 70s – Rocco Palladino on bass is loud and heavy through an octaver, dropping long notes to help shape the sound. The beat breaks down, fades away, then comes back, even more hyped; then it’s over.
“We’re here freestlying” says Dayes, and that’s exactly what they proceed to do. The basic template harks back to the glory days of what used to be called Intelligent Drum & Bass – chiming keys sketch out ambiguous chords over stuttering beats and heavy bass bombs, like old school Photek or Roni Size jams; there are hints of familiar riffs, rolling waves of builds and drops and the occasional false start; a flat-footed take on Lenny White’s Sorcerer is rescued as Dayes’ sheer chutzpah drives the band ever onwards, never looking back. Dropping the beat out to come back harder and heavier is his ace card and he plays it to full effect; his co-musicians steer clear of jazz-funk licks, and the invisible hand of the soundman adds effects in a dub style. The vibe is like a high-energy warehouse party jam – an impression that the occasional PA drop-outs only heighten, all the more so when a nattily attired special guest, introduced as Rob JR, takes to the mic and sings, screams and hollers like a punk MC. The crowd call them back for an encore that turns into another long-form workout; then everyone piles outside to smoke in the adjoining bus station car park. Dayes is an unpredictable phenomenon, and the music feels like a work in progress, but this crowd are with him every inch of the way.
(Photo of Yussef Dayes by Anya Arnold)