Mazes – Reviewed

It’s all change as we head to the Blade Factory to check out the new sounds of Mazes. Would their gamble pay off?

It was with a mixture of intrigue and expectation that we headed down to Camp and Furnace for this Harvest Sun and Liverpool Psyche Fest co-production, mostly due to Mazes having taken a new aural direction, but also because it was the first gig at a newly re-furbed Blade Factory. Early signs were good, the venue augmented as it was with typically awesome visuals from the Hive Collective’s Sam Wiehl.

As for those new sounds from the headliners, we’d have to reserve judgement, as a duo of support acts preceded them. First up were Alien Ballroom, a quartet old enough to know better (which somehow enhances the experience), rocking post-punk sounds and matching stripy sweaters (at least three of them did, the guitarist evidently didn’t get that particular memo). They make for a good, if slightly slap-dash start to the night, their art-rock a good match for Wiehl’s schizoid light show.

Next up are Mind Mountain, a band we first came across on the great Screenadelica stage at last year’s Sound City. The trio of Marc Glaysher (bass), Joe Hirons (guitar) and David Smyth on drums, waste no time in going about their business – a decidedly muscular and loud (but nuanced) brand of heavy psychedelic rock which, while not for the faint of heart, is most certainly accomplished. Come the end of their winning set, you can’t help but feel a pang of nerves for Mazes, who have to follow them.

“It’s a brave band that changes a winning formula”

A fact made all the more pressing given that new material we’ve been banging on about. Indeed, it’s a brave band that notably changes a winning formula from a well-received debut record to the follow up – traditionally the difficult second album; like a football manager seemingly unnecessarily swapping a winning team for something more daring, less formulaic. It’s always going to be a risk.

And so it is with Mazes, whose 2011 debut, A Thousand Heys, sent gentle yet significant ripples of electricity through the comatose if not yet dead body of guitar music. Here, touring said follow up Ores & Minerals, the London-based three-piece signed to Fat Cat Records paraded a host of new songs with a markedly different sound.

For a band only a short way down the long and winding career road such as Mazes, it could be the difference between the adulation enjoyed by big fish in a small pond (that pond being the one inhabited by UK bands playing US-orientated slacker rock) and finding the love, respect and affection of a much broader audience, one appreciative of progression and chances grasped. That or hazard the alienation of a hard-won and fervent support, built on those aforementioned reference points.

If not quite a make or break tour, then this at least would be one in which they’re sure to realise whether discarding a sound that had served them so well so early in their career was wise or foolhardy. As it happens, things didn’t get off to a great start for the trio, who made it to the venue just in the nick of time – breaking down and having to be towed to Liverpool does not a good omen make.

But who pays attention to omens these days anyway, right? Not Mazes apparently, because as they take the stage, it is with, if not arrogance, then most definitely a level of self-assuredness and confidence in what they’re about to serve up to the expectant if modest crowd. Primarily sticking to the new material (with only a couple of concessions to the ‘oldies’), it turns out that self-assuredness was not misplaced.

If we’re disappointed and surprised that they eschew our personal fave track from ATH in Surf & Turf/Maths Tag, then we can’t help but be impressed with the stubbornness with which they stick to their guns, and the relative immediacy of an album we’re less than familiar with. In tracks like Dan Higgs Particle, Skulking and first single, Bodies, Mazes are a band clearly growing into themselves and should have few concerns (as they get further into the tour) in exercising  the greater depth which is clearly at their disposal than anyone had. at first, quite given them credit for.

Mazes image courtesy Brian Sayle

Posted on 27/02/2013 by thedoublenegative