After the stoner rush of Brighton-residents and headliner-van-cohabitants InTechnicolour and the regal post-metal of Glaswegians Dialects, a healthy mixture of prog revelry on the venue PA reaches its peak with the synthesized dystopianism of the A Clockwork Orange theme. The Physics House Band walk on stage, not unlike the sombre funeral march of Henry Purcell.
But from the get-go, the group bring their latest album Mercury Fountain to glorious life, and then some. The central motif that runs through the album, from first track Mobius to last track Mobius II, is played at the head of the show, as if to tie together the album’s two ends into one revelatory rendition. This is the fuse that lights the dynamite of second track Calypso. Musical hits scatter over a ticking rhythm that builds into a minor explosion, and yet the song seems over before it’s even begun. As they plummet into Holy Caves and the room is bathed in the blue lights of a disco ball, it’s clear that, to a degree, The Physics House Band are going to perform Mercury Fountain by the book – when the narratological peaks and troughs of the album seem so considered, who can blame them? The group make their complex constructions look effortless and fun to play, but for all their technical ability, nothing of the album’s falling comet intensity and speed is amiss on stage.
Tonight’s venue is a sausage-fest of prog-botherers, assuredly bobbing their heads to the band’s time signature acrobatics – if they didn’t already see it coming, Surrogate Head would surely leave everyone floored. If the audience are appreciative of this jammy performance, no one could tell, as they don’t seem to have a spare moment to clap between songs. The group confidently propel themselves forward through a majority of their new album, with older tunes gently placed here and there for a masterful shift in tone when it’s needed most. The jittery stop-starts of Abraxical Sollapse manage to highlight the silence of onlookers’ faces, stunned by the group’s sheer dexterity. This musicianship might have manifested in aloofness, but the group themselves, stopping for a breather between 14-minute suites, come off as goofy and down to earth, as bassist Adam Hutchinson addresses the audience on a pitch-shifted microphone, making him sound like a Power Rangers villain, to the mirth of guitarist Sam Organ and drummer Dave Morgan.
The group finish up with another oldie, Teratology, and the thought occurs that The Physics House Band have achieved a truly elusive thing with their latest album – a rather accessible modern prog rock album. The tracks from their 2013 debut EP Horizons / Rapture slot in quite nicely into tonight’s set, but they ultimately serve to show a group finding their feet. It’s become clear after this sole Scottish date that The Physics House Band have since morphed into a rock juggernaut – a formidable force blasting its way forward from the outer fringes of British weird music.