Gig review: Teeth of the Sea & The Utopia Strong at The Crescent, York

Let us address the green baize elephant in the room first. Seated stage left, benevolently presiding over a burbling modular synth that resembles an analogue telephone switchboard crossed with the flight deck of a UFO, that is indeed 1980s snooker legend Steve Davis.

The Utopia Strong

Davis is also a long-standing champion of obscure and experimental music, and his years as a DJ and radio presenter have now led him to make his own psychedelic electronic sounds as The Utopia Strong, in collaboration with his multi-instrumentalist friends Kavus Torabi and Michael York, veterans of a raft of cult bands including Gong, Coil and Current 93.

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Here in a double header with Rocket Recordings labelmates Teeth Of The Sea, the band’s very decent debut album becomes just a jumping-off point for tonight’s improvisation-led live set. The opening drones mutate sedately into the rhythmic pulse of a dystopian sci-fi soundtrack, before entering lush, woozy territory led by York’s explorations on woodwinds and Torabi’s vocal loops and reverbed guitar. The rhythms build gradually as these amiable cosmic voyagers crank up the interstellar overdrive pedals and set the controls for the hearts of an appreciative audience.

By contrast, Teeth Of The Sea take no prisoners, bringing the volume and intensity right from the start in a set that could easily command a festival crowd, never mind a quiet Sunday evening in York. Against pulsing back projections and slamming drum machine beats, the three musicians shift seamlessly between banks of technology and live instruments. On latest album Wraith, doomy brass parts set a pensive mood, but live, the echoing trumpet spars with fuzz bass and shredding space-metal guitar as the band laugh in the face of genre. From Scorn-like slow crushing beats to the psychedelic reels of the Chemical Brothers in their prime, Teeth Of The Sea live are a force to be reckoned with.