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Live Report: Crack Cloud at Moth Club
Diva Harris , November 13th, 2018 09:14

Exhilarating, alarming: pure pain and pleasure combined

Photo by Naomi Yates

Some context before I ramble on about how blisteringly good Crack Cloud were on Friday: it’s well-documented that the Canadian ‘multimedia collective’ functions as a form of rehabilitation for its seven members. In general I’m wary of viewing recovering musicians’ output too much through the lens of their addiction, lest the story become invasively, patronisingly, romantically and solely about the struggle, eclipsing the merit of the music, but when it comes to Crack Cloud, the narrative of addiction and ongoing recovery is intrinsic and unignorable. Even the group’s name asks us to stare the reality in the face.

Since their previous London show in June, a buzz has been steadily building around the band, and a sold-out Moth Club barely contains an impatient, sharp-elbow-wielding crowd. There’s a crazed energy about the place, with everyone seemingly desperate to get to the front, and the trap music blaring out over the PA isn’t doing much to calm things down.

The Crack Cloud gang are alarmingly eye-shadowed (some with their makeup extending over cheeks and forehead), mostly peroxide-blond. Some members are a bit naked, while others are kitted out in their own merch. And they are already onstage, though in no apparent rush to get started, just tuning up, occasionally trying a guitar string to the incongruous soundtrack. Then, with no warning whatsoever, the trap cuts out and is replaced by a powerful and frantic drum beat, a classically post-punk bassline and curt, scratchy guitar. They launch into ‘Drab Measure’ with both manic abandon and complete control, drummer Zach Choy’s kinda shouty David Byrne-y vocal the cherry on top of this dark and delicious cake. It is surely the mark of a bloody good band when its lead vocalist can drum and sing at the same time.

As the song finishes, the band take a long pause. I’m not sure what’s going on, and no one explains (in fact, I don’t think any band members speak the entire set) but I presume someone’s adjusting an instrument they’ve spent the previous few minutes bending out of shape. This happens after each song – a building up of momentum only to arrive at a dead stop – and it feels like being the passenger in a very fast car which is continually caught at red lights.

After a while, though, they get into a swing and speed without stopping through the cannon-fire vocals of ‘Empty Cell’, the marching moody ‘Image Craft’ and plinky synth-led ‘Philosopher’s Calling’ (which has a distinctly Fred from The B-52’s vibe as Choy sings about amphetamines: “Psycho-stimulation / what a privilege for the mind / we should do it all the time / we should do it all the time). It’s hard to keep track of who’s playing or singing what. Band members produce increasingly unexpected instruments from thin air – first a tambourine, then a saxophone, a tin whistle, and when it surely can’t get any more absurd… a kazoo. It’s fucking brilliant.

Towards the end of the set, the pauses make a reappearance, but it doesn’t seem to matter at this point - we elbowers, pogoers and stubbornly-still-leather-jacketed are stuck together, the band are soaked through and their eye/cheek/head paint is dripping off.

With one last push they give us ‘Swish Swash’, looking totally possessed, physically exerted, like pure pain and pleasure combined. The sax strains, played with such ferocity that it sounds like a tape being rewound.

And with as little warning as when they started, Crack Cloud stop, so suddenly that a plug might have been pulled. They say nothing, shuffle off the stage, and I hear several exhilarated people woozily babbling about how they feel like they’ve just come up on a pill. We bray for an encore, but that’s our lot. I feel like I’m going to be sick. What a ride.