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LIVE REPORT: Snapped Ankles at Moth Club
Oliver Cookson , January 25th, 2018 11:38

Ecstasy in Hackney with the fantastic, feral Snapped Ankles

photo thanks to Phil Garlick

As Snapped Ankles appear onstage at Moth Club in their trademark woodland get-up (ghillie masks and military overalls, like a bunch of feral RAF pilots) the atmosphere is sombre. Just a couple of hours ago the news broke that Mark E Smith has died, and many in the audience are feeling the loss of a true musical innovator. Snapped Ankles’ vocalist makes a short, heartfelt dedication to the great Mr Smith, and the set begins. After a quick warm-up of their log-synths, they enter into the title track of last year’s debut album Come Play The Trees. It’s a rhythmic assault on the senses and for the next hour they are absolutely unrelenting.

Formed in 2011, Snapped Ankles honed their sound and image playing warehouses in east London. The result is a fine example of a group exploring familiar sounds and styles in an unfamiliar way. It’s a refreshing tonic of krautrock-inspired post-punk that hits the body before it hits the head. They are cinephiles, too, and their visual sensibilities translate well live: their grassy attire and carefully devised formation work wonders; the rhythm section stay locked in place on stage while the chief synth-manipulator and vocalist-guitarist are out front with the punters. It’s a highly communal affair as the audience is literally invited to come play the trees when one of the oscillating logs is thrust into their hands.

The set peaks with the dance-punk single ‘True Ecology’ with its punchy call-and-response bassline. The venue has now assumed a sweaty, rave-like quality. Dancers line the walls on tables and seating, pulsating in unison with shit-eating grins on their faces. There’s commotion in the back, as more anonymous swamp-men appear on drums. It’s sensory overload and the ecstasy is infectious. Synths wail and howl, and the motorik rhythms don’t let up.

Disturbing cultural and political trends have inspired some great music recently, but the overwhelming artistic response to the oppressive zeitgeist has been one of anger and anxiety. Snapped Ankles walk a different path, creating a disorientating yet joyous experience. Their music provides a colourful antidote to depressing world events. We don’t know what Mark E Smith might have thought of Snapped Ankles, but it’s fair to say they embody the idiosyncratic, instrument-abusing spirit of The Fall. One hopes they’re just getting started.