The Windmill is effectively hidden away down a side street of Brixton and is about a ten minute walk from the station. At night, its exterior is unassuming and relatively easy to miss. Conversely, during the day there is reportedly a dog that patrols its roof. Nonetheless, we found the venue easily enough without having to resort to Google Maps or even more desperately, trying to navigate by the stars, (although that would have been cool).
Stepping into The Windmill, we were greeted with a mixed demographic of locals and trendy indie kids, Red Stripe on tap at a reasonable price and a dive bar interior. Essentially, it is a great place to catch a gig. The mission statement of the venue’s management is to promote young and upcoming alternative bands that have an impression of quirkiness and idiosyncrasy about them. It is very likely that if you happened to go there one night on a whim, you wouldn’t be disappointed with the line-up on offer.
A lot of the locals had left prior to math-pop outfit, Quadrilles taking to the stage. It was a shame as the band deserved a much larger audience and this was the first gig they had played in quite a while. Regardless of the sparse audience, Quadrilles put on an impressive performance showcasing their technical virtuosity and precision. The band commenced their set with the ebullient ‘Shirtsleeves’ which engaged the crowd with its bouncy, tropical offbeats and driving breakdowns.
Quadrilles progressed to play a mix of tracks from their Inuit EP and some that excitingly seemed fresh from the practice room. The band exhibited their rhythmic dexterity with the cerebral ‘A Point Is That Which Has No Part’, before moving on to ‘Man Against Beast’ which in its two minute duration frenetically oscillates, switching from one juicy riff to the next, making it akin to an intricately crafted punk song. Quadrilles ended their set with the quietly epic ‘Inuitses’, full of complex, Tim Collis-worthy noodly guitar.
Despite their spell of relative inactivity for the last year or so, on the cramped stage of The Windmill, Quadrilles demonstrated that they are still a deservedly significant presence in the UK math-rock scene. I just hope that they release another record soon and a lot more people become aware of their brilliance To unashamedly employ a cliche, Quadrilles seemed a hard band to follow. However, when Fish Tank took to the stage, they commenced proceedings with their math-pop masterpiece, ‘Ginny’ which is saturated with enough majestic melodic and rhythmic changes and digressions to satisfy even the most aloof and unexcitable music nerds.
Fish Tank also interwove some new material into their set, and fans will be pleased to know the new tracks are for the most part stylistically similar to those on the Henry EP, possessing the same scintillating melodic sheen, volatile momentum and hugely danceable riffage. I did involuntarily throw a few shapes during the gig, especially throughout the finger-tapping fest of ‘Oliver Postgate’, but unfortunately no one was looking in my direction at the time to admire my graceful shindiggery.
During ‘Country Disco’, the lead singer aimlessly walked around the audience like a somnambulist to the sound of looped David Lynch-esque synthesizer chords before languidly stepping back on stage to finish the song. It was one of those pleasingly surreal and self consciously abstract moments that I have come to expect at math-rock gigs. Naturally, the audience didn’t know how to react: some just stolidly stared, others laughed nervously. It was hilariously awkward and intelligently disrupted the whole dynamic of the show.
Inexplicable displays of off-kilter humour at gigs should be embraced as they reduce that intangible tension between the band and the audience. It was refreshing to see that Fish Tank, despite their undeniable talent, didn’t take themselves too seriously. Unlike a proportion of bands that I’ve seen live recently, they looked as if they were having fun and weren’t internally suffering an existentialist crisis on stage.
Due to the inevitable curfew, Fish Tank’s set seemed to have been slightly curtailed. However, the sound guy allowed an encore and they used it well, choosing to play ‘Capybara’, the opening track from their last release. It provided a fitting cadence to an awesome night of watching two extremely talented, upcoming math-rock bands.