Föllakzoid live

Föllakzoid                                                    Castle And Falcon, Birmingham,  20th May 

In which a trio of Chilean cosmonauts stop by for unexpected refuelling in Balsall Heath, perhaps scouring the scrapyards for parts, who knows? It’s their, and my, first visit to newly refurbed and relaunched venue The Castle and Falcon which makes for a pretty good little venue – comfortable, intimate and with good sound although possibly the band could have used a little more volume tonight. I’ve encountered The Föllakzoids on a previous occasion, stepping in to play a festival slot on a lazy beer soaked afternoon of sunshine. They were great then and although tonight they perform in blue tinted near-dark gloom it’s weirdly pleasing to see that the bass-zoid is still wearing his sunglasses. Continuity is important. Guitar-zoid has recklessly disregarded such wisdom and bleached his hair. Combined with the steady darkness on stage it gives his head the uncanny appearance of High Five Ghost floating about in front of the drums. Psychedelic, don’t you know.  Their sound is a slow and steady building pulse, they play the last record pretty much, with all the admirable patience and restraint that requires. There’s not much dynamic drama or melodic decoration, nor a particularly propulsive rhythm driving it along, it’s more spacious and laid back than that, almost like dub techno. The overall effect is calming and meditative but you need to lean into it. Playing three or four lengthy, near identical, numbers in this manner without even the decadent distraction of a light show is an impressive commitment to cosmic minimalism. It’s also fairly boring and so it’s greatly to the band’s credit that they just about get away with it. Your attention and investment is required and repaid if you can go with it. They are capable of catching you unaware and pulling you in like a hidden current but they’re not quite getting there tonight and a little extra crowd bludgeoning volume might have helped them get over. Their most recent recording is a couple of tracks off the last record reworked with J. Spacemen. Of course it is. For a while, about half way through the set, they appear to be little more than a Spacemen 3 tribute act (but pleasingly shorn of the tatty cultural baggage – smack chic, oil wheels, Lou Reed fixations and all that exhausted English psychedelic heritage). Some of us saw first hand last summer just how upsetting an actual Spacemen 3 tribute band can be and it provides an unexpected key to appreciating Föllakzoid’s achievement in cutting through the psychedelic jungle to clear their own space rock launch pad, if you take my garbled meaning. For what it’s worth the new versions are fine although it’s unclear what Jason has contributed to them other than making the band very happy indeed. I’m shocked tonight that they do actually have vocals because having seen them and listened to their recordings I still didn’t remember there being any. That’s certainly the next thing they could lose in their quest for ever simpler, more streamlined restraint. Blessedly they do not jam but towards the close of the set guitar-zoid drops the hand jive and starts to get a little crazier than previous with his effects pedals, they’re finally achieving escape velocity and tragically it’s “fasten your seatbelts please we’re coming in to land”. Next time maybe.



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