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Saturday, 19 April 2014

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Mapping out future

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Credit: Daniel Large

REVIEW: Atlas and Crane plus support, The Derby, December 28.

ATLAS and Crane have, without doubt, been two of Barrow’s shining lights in 2011.

They brought the year to an end with a joint headline show at their second home, The Derby, last week.

Support duties on the night fell to local singer-songwriter Danny Lewthwaite and Sootytern, a four-piece whose origins are in Furness but have members dotted around the north of the country. As a result they have only played here sporadically, but with a series of gigs this Christmas they’ve made great strides.

Their sound is undeniably indie in its most recent incarnation – though a mandolin and ukulele where the guitars should be give it, at times, an almost folk twist and enough of a hook to stand out from the crowd. As long as they stay ahead of trend, they can go far.

Early last year Crane released their first full-length, a masterpiece of an album that is still on regular rotation on my iPod, but nearly six months of inactivity looked to have spelled the end for one of Barrow’s most engaging live acts.

This comeback show was more than worth the wait.

Possibly owing more to sound technician than intention, a rumbling bass and ear-splitting drum sound gave their angular instrumental rock a fearsome metallic edge.

At times it almost defies logic that a trio can generate such a massive noise, but as they rattled through much of the album with smiles on their faces that said ‘it’s good to be back’, you realised that they’ve got everything they need in just three instruments – too many cooks spoil the broth and all that.

Old favourites Tuck Your Calves In and Turret rocked the venue to its very foundations, while for the sub two-minute freakout I Jump On This it could easily have been Mastodon on the stage.

They finished up with a few ‘new’ tracks, including closer and future set-list staple Stan Laurel, which cunningly weaves the unmistakable Laurel and Hardy theme into yet another prog-rock tour de force. Atlas, who share two of Crane’s three, were the reason that the majority were in attendance though.

They too released a successful record in their Intake/Release EP, singles from which received praise and airplay on the regional airwaves, and in their first full year with the new line-up have cemented their place among Cumbria’s elite.

And they too chose to focus their set on their 2011 release, with Flee, Follow Me, and the title track unquestionably amongst the strongest material in their arsenal. Older tracks such as Incognito and IQ showed why their back catalogue shouldn’t be discounted either, and the addition of keyboards only serves to flesh out their melodic indie into something bigger and definitely better.

With new studio releases expected from both bands again, 2012 could be the year that puts them on the map.

KARL STEEL

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