Fairly well known in their home country of Italy, the Sassuolo-formed Julie’s Haircut have been releasing music for the best part of 25 years now. However, many here in the UK probably only encountered them after the release of 2017’s Invocation And Ritual Dance Of My Demon Twin on Rocket Recordings, arguably Britain’s best psychedelic label.
During their first decade together they performed a mix of garage and indie rock, but collaborations with the likes of Damo Suzuki, Sonic Boom and then Philip Corner inspired more experimentation. Since then they’ve evolved to become one of Europe’s top psychedelic krautrock bands, also incorporating elements of prog, post rock and jazz into their sound.
On the eve of the release of their ninth full length album In The Silence Electric, the Northern Italian outfit stopped by The Live Rooms in Chester for their first ever performance in the city. It was part of a seven date UK tour that also included dates in Leicester and Newcastle before they headed back for a tour of their homeland.
Support for the evening came in the form of two bands, with local duo Startripper up first performing their blend of improvised space rock over pounding looped beats. Second up were Thee Lucifer Sams, with the Liverpool trio exhibiting their searing brand of heavy psych. They’re definitely a band we’ll encounter again at psychedelic festivals.
Most in attendance were a little shy at first, keeping their distance during the support acts until Julie’s Haircut entered the stage and beckoned everyone forward. After apologising for the absence of their sax player Laura Agnusdei, who was unfortunately absent from this part of the tour, they jumped straight into their set.
Opening with ‘Gathering Light’ and ‘The Fire Sermon’ from their 2017 album, both tracks were characterised by a hypnotic blend of bass, organ, percussion and hushed vocals which were contrasted by moments of squalling feedback. Either side of the laid back ‘Orpheus Rising’ we were treated to some of their new material.
The mesmeric stomp of ‘Emerald Kiss’ with its repeated vocals whet everyone’s appetite and it was soon to be followed by the new album’s two singles. ‘Until the Lights Go Out’ was driven by a menacing groove, while ‘Sorcerer’ saw them channelling their inner Suicide with Nicola Caleffi taking over lead vocal duties from Luca Giovanardi.
Forming the centrepiece of their performance, the two singles are fantastic live and will certainly go a long way to attracting new listeners. We were also treated to a couple more takes from the new album, with the slow building trip of ‘Pharoah’s Dream’ and the Spiritualized-inspired ‘Lord Help Me Find The Way’, both subtler and less immediate than the singles.
It’s been a busy year for Julie’s Haircut with In The Silence Electric their second release of 2019 after putting out Music for The Last Command at the end of May. Their debut soundtrack and a great piece of work, they wrote it after being invited to create music to accompany Josef Von Sternberg’s 1928 silent classic by the National Museum of Cinema in Turin.
Although mostly sticking to their more recent material, there was room to perform ‘Purple Jewel’ from their 2006 album After Dark, My Sweet. And ending their set in blissful fashion, they went with ‘Fountain’ from the deluxe version 2013’s Ashram Equinox (the non-deluxe version of which they played in full at Ex Chiesa di San Quirino in Parma).
Despite missing the trippy sax of Laura Agnusdei on a few tracks, it was a fantastic performance from a band who have been at their creative peak in recent years. They will certainly have gone back to Northern Italy with many more fans than they had when they arrived here and will always be welcome to stop by Chester when they embark on any future UK tours.
In The Silence Electric is available now via Rocket Recordings