Some people have Black Flag, others Velvet Underground or The Stooges. I have Castings. I’m not sure that I can objectively write about the band that changed my life, but I can give it a shot.
Before hearing Castings, the appeal of noise’s unending static had been totally lost on me. When Nick Senger handed me a CD-R of Punk Rock is Bunk Squawk when it was released five or six years ago, it was a game-changer. I’m not saying Castings are noise – that idea is so stupid I won’t even bother going into it. What I mean to say is that it opened my ears to what music could and, more importantly, should be. Punk Rock’s disparate combination of ethereal beauty and abject repulsiveness immediately hit me where it mattered. It was weird, unique, and completely devoid of the pretension I later found was synonymous with most ‘experimental’ music. People I knew and could relate to made it, and it helped blow out some of the garbage I’d been infecting my ears with up until that point. Castings led me to reading and ultimately writing for Negative Guest List, Brendan Annesley being possibly the only other person I know who shared my devotion to them. They shaped the way I hear and think about music. I owe everything to them.
When the possibility of them playing during Sound Summit was mentioned to me a while back, I was filled with equal parts anticipation and apprehension. Knowing the band’s tumultuous history and propensity for collapsing live, I wasn’t sure how it would turn out, or if it would even materialise at all. Well, they did play, doing so unannounced at a re-purposed pharmacy (The Pharmacy) on the wrong side of the tracks to a room full of mates, smoke and well-dressed types alike. They didn’t collapse, but instead they bloomed into the towering monument of honest communication that I’d hoped and knew they were. Castings were what some of their well paid contemporaries from out of town playing across the road should have sounded like: a sprawling psychedelic mess of electronics and bad drugs.
Melted from too much booze, time in the sun and social contact, I’ve retained only vaguely illuminated impressions of their set. The equipment and approach of the members had changed since last time, but the sound that was created was undoubtedly still them. Simultaneously melancholic, transcendental and just plain fuckin’ weird, Castings is the seminal music of Newcastle. Their thirty or so minute set took on several manifestations, significantly driven through several of them by Dale Rees’ recently assembled modular synth abomination, which coloured it with a distinctly electronic haze. This transition from the organic defectiveness I mostly associated with their previous output to an almost dependable electronic backbone initially came as something of a surprise, but quickly made absolute sense once it sunk in. Castings is six people, but it is also one heaving, living totality with its own course. It’s not always gonna be pretty, but it will always be the sum of its parts and nothing else.
This may have been the last live collective breath of Castings, and if so then I’m glad I was there to hear that they didn’t go out with a fart. I could say more, but any other impression I had of their set was a personal one and would probably be lost on anyone who wasn’t there or mates with the people involved. For everyone who wasn’t or isn’t, there are some recordings of it floating around, maybe they’ll surface outta the smog eventually. If not, you’ll just have to wait for the hologram tour in 2080.
If you haven’t heard Castings, head over to their Soundcloud page or visit their Tumblr for info on releases. For an overview of their work, read this feature at Cyclic Defrost.
4 thoughts on “Castings @ The Pharmacy, Newcastle (September 2012)”
sick. great show.
and great review too
Well put, Shaun. In my opinion they’re a bunch of guys (I hesitate to even call them a band, really) who are completely without peer in this country. And I suppose in possibly a similar way to you, they introduced me to collective possibility and tempered brutality.
Hi Frond, thanks for the feedback. Just wanna say that Cooper Bowman wrote this, not me. Cheers