The room is silent: eerily so. Maybe it’s the setting – the Albert Hall’s cavernous, gothic structure is remarkable and beautiful, with its enormous pipe organ casting foreboding shadows across the stage. A former Methodist meeting hall provides the perfect stage for Slint, who are adored in reverential fashion by the assembled throng. But perhaps this also explains the stillness.
Is the crowd overawed by this band’s return? Does the majestic, labyrinthine disquiet of their landmark album ‘Spiderland’ create such tense anticipation that the audience is helpless to do anything other than hush? They’re all likely to be contributing factors. What matters is that the Kentucky post-rock pioneers are back.
Unsurprisingly, ‘Spiderland’ makes up the majority of the set, with David Pajo’s glistening fretwork creating complex frameworks around which the rest of the band weave subtle magic. Whether fragile or brutal – and both feature heavily, sometimes within the space of a solitary song – they’re played with a grim-faced seriousness that only adds to the tension.
Theoretical ‘frontman’ Brian McMahan spends the majority of the set at stage left, whispering the spectral narrative of ‘Breadcrumb Trail’ before strapping on a guitar for a mesmerising ‘Washer’. In between songs he’s playful, mock-taunting the audience for the noiseless atmosphere, but transforms into a bundle of screaming intensity during ‘Ron’ and a breathtaking ‘Good Morning Captain’. Then there’s Britt Walford at the back, hammering holy hell out of his spacious, lurching rhythms even during the more delicate numbers. He gets his turn in the spotlight during ‘Don, Aman’, gently intoning the story over an intricate guitar duet with Pajo as the audience shuffles its feet in nervous excitement.
Whether this unexpected reunion is temporary or for keeps, Slint’s music is powerful. Is this what worship is supposed to feel like?