The first time we met Cleft was in the damp, mossy bricked courtyard of Wharf Chambers in Leeds. We were interviewing them for one of our first ever articles, incidentally. A half hour later the band took to the stage, and I witnessed their shift from quiet, polite humans to rock musicians. Orators of noise. Masters of ceremony directing 150 people to writhe their bodies with disregard.
This is what Cleft did well. They had an exceptional presence on stage. Half the fun of a Cleft show was watching John and Dan read each other, parsing their musical chemistry. They were also extremely funny. Their humour and charisma helped to loosen the audience, encouraging them to do away with their inhibitions and become rascals for an hour.
It’s no surprise that in Cleft’s new live album things do get a bit rowdy. That people are falling over their gear during the set. That people chant out the riffs sans vocals: “duh-duh-duh-duh-DUH!” It was that sort of a show. Their live album captures the spirit of their performances and is an essential item for the Cleft fan, not least because the proceeds will go directly towards Dan’s treatment for stage four cancer.
These are some of the many reasons you should give this live record your ears and hearts. Cleft may be disbanded but they are still very much venerated math rock hall-of-famers. Each year new riff-chomping duos enter the UK scene, inspired by the style forged by Dan and John. This live album is not only proof-in-the-pudding, it chronicles an important step in the UK’s math rock renaissance.