By Ben Thompson

The third and last of this spring’s run of Hastings Sonics events brought two of Brighton’s leading bands to The Brass: Slum of Legs and Codex Serafini. This event followed on from February’s joyful all-dayer at The Crypt, headlined by Mr Thing, and Yao Bobby and Simon Grab’s splendidly visceral assault on the eardrums at The Piper in March. It’s nice to see Hastings’ promoters extending a helping hand to our less fashionable and happening neighbours to the west, and the two ensembles concerned responded with rip-roaring and whole-hearted sets which made this a Friday night to remember.

Slum of Legs
CREDIT: Lucy Cage

Codex Serafini’s advance billing as “a Saturnian ritualistic band hailing from outer-space, temporarily residing in Sussex” did leave open at least a slim possibility that they would actually be a bunch of total chancers who once borrowed a Sun Ra album from their uncle Kenneth. Happily, the reality of this crimson-robed quintet of sonic adventurers was more akin to a lost jam session uniting Hawkwind with British jazz sax legend John Surman. While Scandinavian Afrobeat adventurers, Goat, are their most obvious contemporary reference point, Codex Serafini actually have a meatier sound than that capricious ensemble and at times scaled heights of guitar/sax interplay unreached since the halcyon days of Blodwyn Pig. 

There’s a really interesting physical balance between the band’s female drummer and vocalist as a central fulcrum – the latter down in the pit but with her back to the audience as she unleashes stentorian ululations to chill the blood of even a Sisters of Mercy fan – with a trio of masked male instrumentalists spread across the stage playing guitar, sax and bass. Codex Serafini’s recent Invisible Landscape cassette EP might not quite have fully realised its promise of “indecipherable conjurations of ecstatic noise from beyond the solar veil”, but on this energising cacophonous showing, such a dream might yet be achievable. 

The disruption caused to adolescent cycles of self-discovery is one of the many unheralded negative side effects of Covid-19. The Brass is to be very much congratulated on its willingness to fulfil the tight licensing conditions required for ‘all ages’ (14 plus) shows like this one, to try and bridge that gap. The welcome smattering of younger audience members could not have wished for a more inspiring example of unfettered joy and spontaneity in the way the six members of Slum of Legs picked up the cudgels of live performance, for what was only their second gig since their debut album came out, just prior to 2020’s first lockdown.

Codex Serafini
CREDIT: Lucy Cage

Singer and lyricist Tamsin Chapman’s songs are feminist battle-cries – “We are a super-structure spiked with glass / We are a fur-lined rupture / a clatter mass” – given extra musical muscle by the sinewy violin-playing of Maria Marzaioli. And with subject matter ranging from the terrorist envy spiral of ‘The Baader Meinhof Always Looks So Good In Photos,’ to a heartfelt paean of praise to Beyonce’s alter ego ‘Sasha Fierce’, Slum of Legs managed to be heart-warming and iconoclastic in equal measure. 

The gig’s climax came when maverick Monotron virtuoso Emily Kawasaki stepped out into the crowd to saw through a packet of Ryvita. Woman cannot live by crispbread alone, and if this does prove to be Slum of Legs’ penultimate live show – as was threatened from the stage – their legacy will be this revolutionary gesture. Something, perhaps, to rival Jimi Hendrix setting fire to his Stratocaster. 

Sadistic Force, Venomwolf, and Stamp Out play a 14+ metal show at The Brass on 3 June. 

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