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Mugstar / Henge (live at Baba Yaga’s Hut)

Electrowerkz, London
26 February 2016

Visiting London’s Electrowerkz in 2016 after spending far too many nights here at the legendary Slimelight in the ’90s is a singularly disorienting experience. It’s the same building, but where once there stood a dingy warehouse now stands an actual venue, even though they’re the same bricks in the same places. Indeed, it’s so disorienting that we may as well be on all the drugs we were twenty-odd years ago, though these days there’s an actual bar and we stick to booze, being old.Henge live at Baba Yaga's Hut February 2016

Disorientation is a perfect start for the evening’s entertainment, though. In the absence of chemicals, it’s a wonderful context into which Henge can chuck their masterful blend of doom, sludge and grind. They start like a kind of more organic Godflesh, or maybe Terminal Cheesecake, but as their set progresses they carve out their own niche in that bit of the Venn diagram where Loop-esque Stooges-worshiping psychedelia meets the grind of a Swans or a Melvins and the doom of an Electric Wizard.

Henge live at Baba Yaga's Hut February 2016

Evil riffing worthy of the Buttholes delivered with the intensity of Neurosis. Yet despite calling all these (admittedly much welcome) names to mind, they don’t actually sound quite like any of them, ripping heaviness a brand new and quite individual asshole and proceeding to fist it vigorously. Highly recommended.

Mugstar live at Baba Yaga's Hut February 2016

And then it’s time for Mugstar, a band about whom I have heard much but of whose music I have heard bugger all. I’ve been told to expect early Hawkwind, and indeed to begin with I could be listening to something from Space Ritual. The tip-off, though, is that to begin with the bits of Space Ritual I could be listening to are the bits where Hawkwind have already built up the track and freaked it out into space. This is where Mugstar begin.

Mugstar live at Baba Yaga's Hut February 2016

If you can have triumphant post-rock, like Waking Aida or something, then what Mugstar do could be described as triumphant space rock. And to confuse the analogy further, there’s also a post-rock element to Mugstar’s cosmic shenanigans, albeit more blissed-out and less analytical than post-rock can often be. I guess on some level Mugstar are to Hawkwind as Loop are to The Stooges, or Sleep to Sabbath a sound distilled to its essence and then basically just delivered neat in large quantities, like a kind of musical anti-homeopathy (the only kind that fucking works, basically).

Mugstar live at Baba Yaga's Hut February 2016

When their motorik beats have put you into a kind of waking hypersleep, they do what all great space/psych/noise bands do for me, which is suddenly appear to be guys with guitars standing on the front of a speeding spacecraft powered by its rhythm section, firing off dirty riffs into what would normally in this analogy be “the unknown”, but in actuality is “the audience”. And the audience, or even the unknown, if you want to continue with the more romantic imagery, absolutely fucking love it.

-Words: Justin Farrington-
-Pictures: Dave Pettit-

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