ENOLA GAY + YARD + YINYANG – GREEN DOOR STORE, BRIGHTON 15.6.23
There’s a particular quality to be found in live music, particularly in underground live music, that is always something treasurable in my experiences: intensity. That feeling of extreme tension and release that always pays off no matter what style of music you may be drawn to. I, myself, thrive on the intensity of post-rock music by the likes of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, or the repetition of composers like Steve Reich. However, Friday night at the Green Door Store, I experienced intensity like no other, in the form of Irish post-punk neo-heroes Enola Gay! Formed only four years ago in Belfast, these guys have been releasing single after single and EP after EP, going toe-to-toe against other rising post-punk icons such as Gilla Band, Fontaines D.C. and Just Mustard. Even with a distinctive sound in this field, the band themselves draw influences from a colourful array of sources, most of which stem from the worlds of hip hop, electronic and even contemporary folk. Friday night saw the band embark on the ninth and penultimate night of a ten-day tour between all corners of the UK before heading across the EU for the remainder of the year.
Prior to the show, I had no idea what I was in for, having heard the name Enola Gay among friends but never having the privilege of seeing them live. However, before I could encounter such kings, I was blessed with the arrival of transcendent London-based artist Yinyang. Spearheaded by the musically ambidextrous Lauren Hannan, Yinyang has been floating around the realms of experimental hip hop and electronic music for several years now, amalgamating anything and everything that comes her way, hopping aboard the Enola Gay touring wagon for a select number of shows. As she approaches the stage, engulfed by four standing pillars of light, an opening sound collage of vocal samples introduces the opening ‘Happy Money’, backed by a hard-hitting synth and beat pattern. Already, Lauren is commanding her presence in such a small space, surrounded by the lights and the remaining bands’ equipment. A seamless transition brings us into ‘Black Mamba’, complete with elaborate production techniques, mixing various samples and jittery industrial hip-hop rhythms. By this second song, Lauren has clearly demonstrated a flexible vocal range, shifting between an ominously dark rap flow and an ethereal, melodic aura in a matter of seconds.
The following ‘Poison Darts’ maintains a slower trip-hop influenced groove, with a very cinematic instrumental backdrop; even with just Lauren on the stage with her ever-changing strobes of light, she perfectly encapsulates the set with such gravitas and angst. There’s a very intense progression to this song, metamorphosing across various dynamic plains and scopes before screeching to a halt. ‘Ghost’ features a somewhat sparse, but intricate rhythmic pattern, with a more melody-oriented vocal approach towards the start shifting into a rap flow that you could cut with a knife! Her newest single, set to be released on 29th November, ‘Kill Jester’, was certainly a strong highlight, complete with samples of guns cocking and slamming doors, almost M.I.A.’s ‘Paper Planes’ in layout, with Lauren almost acting like a preacher towards the crowd. Entering the final leg of her set, the Yinyang project grows strength to strength, with ‘NBFAW’ (short for “Not bad for a woman”), featuring Lauren’s most imaginative rhythm let, while ‘Skitz’ stood as the best song presented to us with a fiery rap performance and a chorus that goes extremely hard and nothing less…! ‘DMITSA’ (“dumped me in the smoking area”), the closing song, makes use of a pounding club rhythm and screeching synths (think Daft Punk’s ‘Rollin’ & Scratchin’’), with Lauren’s flow growing in intensity with every subsequent verse right up to the end.
The Green Door Store began to see crowd attendance reach a bursting point as the Dublin boys YARD accommodated the stage for a half-hour set. These guys have enjoyed success supporting Scalping and Shame, now perfecting their craft as a four-piece exploring the sounds of techno music, noise rock and industrial music. I got Kraftwerk vibes just by the sight of four people in a straight line, most of whom backed by synthesizers… leaving guitarist Dan Malone the only member without electronics. Right out of the gate, the opening ‘Defacer’ sits within a strangely propulsive electro sound, almost like something out of a Death Grips track (mind you, this wouldn’t sound out of place at a club!). Frontman Ben O’Neill takes control of the song with these distorted vocals that almost stretch into power electronics territory, while Dan’s twisted guitar passages mutate underneath. An eventual beat drop makes an incredible crescendo that completely captivated me, something that is often difficult for me just from the first song alone, but already, YARD have got my attention! With beatmaster George Ryan donning a pair of shades, the next song ‘Trevor’ sees synth player Emmet White engage in cleaner vocal duties… well, I say cleaner; the distortion has disappeared but chorus and delay act as its replacements. Rhythmically, the song features sounds that emanate more from the world of garage music with its 2-step snare patterns and erratic pulsing.
‘A Man Holds’ brings out the industrial influence of YARD a lot more, reminding one of Nine Inch Nails’ ‘Closer’, a sleazy, groovy song in itself. The quartet take that sound and match it with Ben’s overblown, distorted vocals atop a slow, thumping groove before the song itself becomes the third out of three so far to feature a gratifying beat drop that makes the audience go wild! Now comes a special treat, Lauren from Yinyang makes a guest appearance manning the vocal helm on the song ‘ECDYSIS’, perched right in front of the stage. Backed by a bouncy bass synth and a growling beat, this track is easily one of the most intense, dark and on-point performances in electronic music I’ve caught all year! The second to last song of the set, ‘Lawmaker’, sees Ben’s vocals washed in delay underneath a sonar-emulating pulsing synth, before a four-on-the-floor club rhythm takes form. Dan’s guitar here seems to be morphing through ring modulation, something that I love hearing in live music (gives me the sound of a prepared piano!). Finally, ‘Sunlight’s strong techno and hardstyle instrumental backdrop, coupled with a gradual build-up and elusive lower-pitched vocals from Emmet, makes for a sensational reaction from the Enola Gay crowd, with cries for more flooding the room as they depart! I tell you what, if this is how they do it in Ireland, then I shall be moving there by the end of the year!
Ben O’Neill – vocals, synth, guitar
Dan Malone – guitar
Emmet White – vocals, bass synth
George Ryan – beats, bass synth
‘A Man Holds’
I simply had to congratulate both Yinyang and YARD for a pair of immense performances completely unlike anything I’d experienced this year, before heading back to my little nestle zone against the Green Door Store walls, singing along to the sounds of Death Grips’ ‘Hacker’ while the stage is set up for the last leg of the night… and here they come, Enola Gay, in all their Irish glory! Drummer Luke Beirne almost interrupts the speakers’ music with the opening ‘Cortana’s breakbeat-style groove, leading guitarist Joe McVeigh and bassist Adam Cooper to fill the room with warbling tones from their respective instruments. As vocalist Fionn Reilly takes hold of the microphone, I was immediately entranced at just how different everyone in the band looks from each other; as opposed to YARD where you can see just how symbiotic they are in appearance and performance, Enola Gay all feature members that you would not expect to see play in the same band, it’s incredible! Already by the second song ‘Salt’, a pit has already been formed in the room… Now it’s just a question of waiting for the moshing to start! Fionn’s blistering vocal performances, a hybrid of Death Grips’ MC Ride’s flow and Benefits’ Kingsley Hall’s lyrical honesty, swarm through the venue with no signs of slowing down for the entire night.
The recognisable bassline to ‘Sofa Surfing’ signals a strong fan reaction of cheer and excitement… and moshing! A much more put-together soundscape compared to the hellish dystopia Enola Gay would be putting forward for the rest of the night, the track electrifies the room with hyperactive drum rhythms and a classic post-punk aura. The droning feedback that closes the song brings us into ‘Malone’, anchored by a more elaborate bassline and disco rhythm, but with very disjointed The Pop Group-style guitarwork, all the while Fionn walks across the stage like a forbidden prince walking across chaos. He takes a moment to dedicate the following track ‘Naked Names’ to all those being slaughtered in Palestine before Luke brings the sonic pacing down a notch with a slower and trippy drum groove. This track is a solid favourite of the set for me so far thanks to its stuttering bass guitar loops and linear, but breathtaking progression! After a much needed rest, the momentum turns right back up again on the track ‘Leeches’, awash with angular noise and rhythms that sound like they’re about to break in half. There’s a thrashing swagger about this track that becomes a strong emotional component in Enola Gay’s performance from here until the end of the set.
‘The Birth Of A Nation’ is easily one of the rhythmically tightest songs of the set with an iconic post-punk bassline and a progression that is chock full of builds, climaxes and rising noise-layered guitars… not to mention the infectious rhythm throughout, of course! The demented telephone-emulating guitar tone of ‘Figures’ is a refreshing moment in the set, with a much more organic flow across the track, starting with a paced, slow rhythm before mutating into dance beats and screaming vocals from Fionn. There’s even a moment in the song where Fionn delivers his lyrical sermon acapella before the band comes in for the final climax… there’s that word again, intensity! Anyway, the fittingly-titled ‘Cold’ plays around with calm guitar textures that paint the intro while Adam’s bass pulses away into the depths of hell. Possibly the cleanest song in terms of sound in the set, the track dives into a sensational closing passage, rising in dynamics and surrounded by harmonising vocals between Fionn and Adam. Now, the track ‘terra firma’ feels almost like a departure from everything we’ve heard from Enola Gay thus far, now with futuristic drum textures and hyperactive, digitised synths, creating the feeling of flying thousands of miles an hour through space! The song is completely inhuman and is easily one of the best the band has to offer!
Introduced as a love song to Belfast, the track ‘PTS.DUP’ continues to demonstrate the band’s incredible knack for atmosphere, no matter how turgid the picture they paint for the listener is, through low-hanging bass and jerky post-punk rhythms. Approaching the end of the set, we enter the song ‘Scrappers’… I don’t know how much more of the fast-paced mayhem I can take, it’s insane! Guitarist Joe spends part of his time in this song crowd-surfing before flooding the room with chaotically noisy guitarwork, chirping into oblivion. Even the following ‘Knives Out’ seems to cascade in fire and noise, with the band being completely unhinged at this point (not as much as the crowd, mind you!). And lastly, the closing track of the night, ‘For God & For Ulster’, is a thunderous note to go out on, with a disorderly swinging groove and, while a simple progression, an ambitiously hard-hitting dynamic trek that acts as a perfect way to end the set. Honestly, God knows how a band like Enola Gay have been able to gather up the stamina to replicate what they played on Friday across a ten-date tour, not to mention the remaining nine shows they’ve yet to play in Europe! I must ask you, the reader of this review, when you next have the chance, go to your local music venue-shaped church and witness the might of Enola Gay.
Fionn Reilly – vocals
Joe McVeigh – guitar
Adam Cooper – bass
Luke Beirne – drums
Enola Gay setlist:
‘The Birth Of A Nation’
‘For God & For Ulster’