LIVE: Ozric Tentacles – Band On The Wall, Manchester 19.02.16

Psych-rock & electronica cult legends take the stage in Manchester.

Ozric Tentacles are one of those bands that exist in an uncanny mythical space. The name alone carries a certain weight but very few people know or understand them; much like quantum theory, Nicholas Cage’s career or the European Union. I had heard their praises sung numerous times, mostly by dudes my father’s age that I might meet stumbling around Glastonbury with massive pupils.  

With a career spanning 33 years, they took the steps to fuse the electronic revolution of the ’80s with the psychedelic rock synonymous with the starchild era of two decades previous. Their cosmic-love grooves and aesthetic took off to such an extent that some commentators credit them with providing the hippie movement with a renaissance that occurred in the UK in the ’90s. The fields of our green and pleasant land were peppered with colourful characters exploring the inside of their heads and spinning out to the Ozrics, and this was a precursor to the beautiful and bizarre psytrance movement which still thrives today.

The band arrive on stage fairly late, which doesn’t seem to particularly phase the crowd. The throng is comprised of a healthy mix of young enthusiastic boogiers and older, wisened lysergic veterans; sometimes paired together and rocking out as an adorable parent & child combo.

The Ozrics have a very extensive back catalogue to showcase, and as someone that had only dipped my toe in the water, I sadly can’t deliver on my usual track-by-track breakdown. The opener sets the tone; a hefty bassline acts almost competitively with some whirlwind drumming to fill the space.

The current drummer in the Ozric’s lineup – a Mr Balázs Szende-  got the job by uploading beat-perfect drum covers of the band’s songs to YouTube, including some tracks that were written with a drum machine and considered insanely difficult to perform live. He was subsequently contacted by the group and asked to join their tour (every YouTuber’s dream). A wise recruitment, track after track his rhythms and impossible time signatures are flawless and thunderous, and could ignite dancing even if isolated.

The layers of sound that the Ozrics manage to create with four people on stage is staggering. Founding member Ed Wynne works with his son (the adorable familial vibes extend to the band) to create a landscape of baffling electronica; guitar imitates synth and vice verca. Soundscapes wail out as screens blare fractal visuals directly into retinas. A relentless bassline ties the whole thing together, the ageless grooves of Brandi Wynne can be felt deep in the chest.

There are one or two moments throughout the 90 minute set when the cohesion of the noise is just a little too dissonant, drifting into an experimental wall of sound. As an immersive experience however, Ozric Tentacles have to be one of the most accomplished bands I have had the pleasure of thrashing around to. It’s refreshing to see a pioneering group remain wholly relevant and not lose a single ounce of what established them as cult legends.

Luke Savage