For non-Irish acts, Letterkenny probably seems like a strange date to include on a tour. But with Distorted Perspectives now in its third year, having previously brought names like Moon Duo and Damo Suzuki to the town it might not stay that way. This year, the festival’s biggest draw is Leeds psych quintet Hookworms, making their debut Irish jaunt along with a show in Dublin’s Whelans the night before. From the outside, the RCC looks like much too large a venue for this sort of gig, but thankfully the performance space is perfect – a small black room with a stage large enough to include a backdrop of swirling psychedelic graphics and impressive stage lights, an ideal collision between the professional and the intimate.
Dublin Twinkranes are up first, a duo who pair synth and drums like a modern Silver Apples. It’s difficult to take your eyes off the intense and incredibly dextrous drumming of Chris Carroll – when not hidden behind the smoke machine, that is – odd time signatures played with perfect precision, all while singing lead vocals and battling problems like collapsing cymbal stands and falling drum mics that technicians and audience members alike need to come onstage to fix while he fails to miss a beat regardless. Synth interludes allow them to catch their breath between songs proper, but otherwise the pair are perfectly in sync. The savage droning synth sounds through tracks like ‘Hi Tekk Train Wreck’ share some common ground with fellow Dubliners No Spill Blood, but their overall sound is less violent, more abstract, and they play a welcomely lengthy set to a gradually growing audience and gradually growing applause. By the time they finish, it feels like we’ve just watched a triumphant headline set.
Like Twinkranes, Hookworms also up the intensity of their studio work in a live environment, opener ‘Away/Towards’ building to a ferocious climax of noise with singer MJ’s vocals shrieked frantically through Roland Space Echo effects. Both guitarists seem to spend most of the set unleashing huge whirls of noise, leaving bass and organ to lead the melody on songs like ‘Radio Tokyo’, only resorting to more conventional riffing on early track ‘Teen Dreams’. The use of 60s psychedelic organ makes the likes of ‘On Leaving’ resemble Clinic caught in a hurricane, and the juxtaposition of call-and-response vocals and calm, measured drumming over swirling, deafening effects keeps their sound anchored without drifting into aggression. They draw largely from 2014’s The Hum, only touching on earlier releases and with a minimum of audience interaction, but it does feel a bit brief, clocking in at around 50 minutes or so and all over long before we’ve had enough. Admittedly it may be difficult to keep up the energy of a set like this for much longer, but with the reception they receive even off the beaten path up here, we can hold out hope for a more extensive Irish tour next time around. Cathal McBride