Live Review: Vetna with Hexcut and theskyisthinaspaperhere. The Cube, 15/4/23

Last Saturday Vetna was supported by Hexcut and theskyisthinaspaperhere at the Cube Microplex, bringing with them the future of live electronic instrumentation. 

I arrived at the Cube around 6 pm after meandering into town. You could easily miss the non-profit nestled away off Bristols busier streets. Once a glass recycling centre and illegal gambling den, this community space is now a Microplex, Arts venue, adult creche, independent museum, and progressive social wellbeing enterprise.” Bestowed on Bristol by volunteers in 1964, Cube Microplex is the real deal – awesome people, food, drink and a programme stuffed with local talent, featuring films, music, performance and more in a small wooden theatre built with love. 

The rumbles of sound check had just started before I caught up with Torsten from Hexcut outside to ask him about whats changed since their debut EP Factory in 2018 and how Bristol influences their sound.

We have expanded from a three-piece to a four-piece and have come into our own, evolving our sound in terms of song structures, moving away from verse-chorus pop song structures and expanding that out into more linear songs that have themes.” He goes on, We dug more into the electronic side thanks to Chris, so I can cover the piano work and he covers the background and thickens out the sound.”Bristol has been a huge part of making our sound because it’s just such a huge melting pot of different styles and genres that you dont quite get anywhere else in the UK. All the different elements you find here all combines to make Hexcut in a way that is quite distinctive to this city.”

An opening act that really has to be experienced live, theskyisthinaspaperhere begins the night with foreboding electronic drones and the voice of Terry Davies, drawing the scattered audience into the theatre. The digital human Marcus Dyer stands in front of a giant projection of neon green retro-hacker imagery, using motion sensors to detect kinetics as he begins to guide us through this strange but beautiful procedural journey. A wash of sounds duck and dive out a stream of whirring ambient pads, his digital hand darts around the projected interface with custom software Veldt manipulating nodes that effect the composition. An interface that becomes the aesthetic, the crowd were slowly hypnotised by this play between human and machine, tracking his movements as voice samples, guitar lines, industrial clatter and piercing synths melt into a melancholic climate of brooding soundscapes. Finishing around 8.45 it sounded and looked great – go see this guy live. 

Next up was four-piece Hexcut. Cracking right into Orchard you can tell this band has put the time into their live set. Ricocheting piano arpeggios bounce off ambient synths, triggered against a backdrop of punchy bass grooves and thick, hard-hitting beats. The latest EPs crystallised cover art morphs in the background as the band kicks into gear with 100 fires, slowly picking up speed and intensity with damming chords cutting through the mix.

Reflecting on our chat earlier, you can really hear how Torstens keys are let loose by the thickener” Chrismultifaceted computer-powered keys and triggers more akin to a DJ setup. Crackling white noise disturbs reverb-soaked key strokes before being switched out for more harmonic synth drones and whistles that bring higher frequencies cascading down into the melody. 

Stand-in bassist Otto did well as they move into Operation Rodeo, keeping things steady despite only having one practice” with the band – those more stretched-out bass lines bridging what can be a seething mass of eclectic harmonies, saturating every pore of the theatre. Similarly, Nicks drums do well to ground the next track Align, holding the crowd’s hand down a wormhole of accentuated harmonic patterns before letting go, chopping up dance-inspired beats with a fluency that leaves the crowd on their toes. Finishing up with the latest single Silverstar, the band continue us down a path of electronically infused genre-bending music that leaves the destination of their debut album highly anticipated. 

Hailing from Turin, Italy but now based in Bristol, the two-piece Vetna hit the stage around 10. Starting slow with the track Purity, Lorenzo tinkers on his impressive array of gear, summoning a wall of atmospheric drones and pads that blanket a swooning trumpet line. Glitchy percussive motifs are effectuated alongside Antonio’s rambling fingerstyle guitar before the sound of rain comes into earshot, puttering out the track.

After greeting and thanking the audience, the next track Frankfurt Violence comes slamming in with brutish determination. Chaotic breakbeats grip the crowd in a whirlpool of punchy snares, kicks and hats before a guitar line gives us something to stand on. Amidst a backdrop of a long-exposure shot of a city road, the track leans back into a second alternative picking guitar line that hums over an increasingly chaotic drum track eventually overrun by an industrial synth bass-line sequenced in hell – think Nine Inch Nails on the drum-and-bass circuit. The more house-inspired track Berlin Is Calling, Pt. 1 comes thumping in with a four-on-the-floor. Trap-like hats flitter alongside broken guitar screeches and heavily delayed vocals that moan with grit, inspiring the audience to begin clapping in time with the infectious beat. 

The night continued on this trajectory with wet guitars ultimately leading on Berlin is Calling, Pt. 2, Fragmentation, and Blankets, Pt. 1 and 2, often breaking into stomping tribal beats. Although their performance was self-proclaimed as a tricky night,” Vetna did well to captivate the crowd with tracks from their debut album As Lips Run – go check it. 

Live review and photos by Henry Appleyard – no use without permission

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