Support for tonight comes from Portsmouth band ‘The Pursuit of Pleasure’ in what is their second ever show. The band are forged from previous members of local heroes The B of the Bang. Forgoing the stage and instead setting up along one of the walls of the venue this decision provides an intimacy that suitably reflects the mood their sound creates. Unplugged and playing within the crowd the band seem to have found an interesting niche. Musically you might want to describe them as British Americana though to these ears I hear a bit of Camera Obscura and Slow Club. I look forward to hearing more from them in the future.
Onto the main event with John J. Presley out on tour to promote new record ‘Chaos & Calypso’. Presley’s musical style is often hard to place. This is an artist who seems to inhabit a range of musical touchpoints yet create his own intriguing sound – rooted in the past yet inhabiting some wonderfully creative contemporary nods. At times he’s full on noir blues man whilst in others, like the second track tonight and recent single ‘Sinnerman’ the use of electronic drum pads give an almost industrial edge.
With the majority of the set lifted from the album, opener ‘Silhouettes‘ sets the scene with a full hit of delta blues intensity with its feedback dripping riff topped off with a squalling flute which seems to come from nowhere. It’s a whole sound that picks you up, vice-like and demanding attention.
Currently touring as part of a three piece, Presley is ably assisted by multi-instrumentalist – including aforementioned flute playing – Danielle Perry and drummer Hannah Feestra. There is a real dexterity to the songs with an intricate musicality that weaves itself throughout the set. We witness it in a harmonium’s drone or a sprinkle of Rhodes piano to a brief flourish of guitar feedback hitting at just the right spot. Tonight, this craft reaches an electrifying peak in ‘The Sequel’. On record, the song is a multilayered wall of sound in parts and though stripped back as a matter of necessity tonight, the band still manage to imbue the song with real dramatic potency.
The rest of the set lurches mesmirisingly from full on bluesman narrative tales – ‘Delicate Thread’ a another highlight with it’s slow building intensity – to more standard blues and garage rock with ‘Summer Sun’ reminiscent of a more fuzzier Paint it Black to these ears. Later, another new album song – ‘Gold’ – once again makes use of a more industrial soundscape.
Final song of the set, ‘Left’ sounding not unlike The White Stripes and Queens of the Stone Age is a rollicking way to finish things. A final intensely satisfying flourish of feedback sees Presley and his band’s work done.