LIVE: Minor Victories / Ulrika Spacek @ O2 Academy, Oxford

By Ashwin Bhandari

When Minor Victories first came together through various Skype jams due to geographical restrictions,  it seemed like a rather odd parring. Given how vastly different Editors, Mogwai, and Slowdive are sonically and stylistically their fanbases and critics alike had no idea what to expect.

Thankfully the end product of their self-titled debut record brings out the best parts of all their projects into a stunning mix of post rock, post punk, dream-pop and shoegaze.  Whilst nearing the end of their tour with Placebo playing sold out arenas, the alt-rock supergroup grace Oxford for a headline show to an attentive audience.

At first it seems like hardly anyone has shown up for tonight, leaving the tiny O2 Academy upstairs room looking rather sparse. The pushed back stage times however, allow Ulrika Spacek to warm up the show eloquently. Their aesthetic of psychedelic, laid back instrumentation is accompanied by pleasingly trippy visuals in the background. Frontman Rhys Edwards’s hazy vocals float ethereally into the mix, adding soothing layers to their¬†catchy guitar melodies.

The band’s comparisons to early Radiohead and Ride are quite fitting in a live environment, and what better place to echo their influences than in Oxford where the parts of the 90’s alt rock movement started. Ulrika Spacek¬†make few crowd interactions tonight but when your audience is lost in a scuzzy wall of noise pop it’s hardly necessary to take them out of that escapism.

Launching right into ‘Give Up The Ghost’ under a dazzlingly¬†array of lights, Minor Victories open their set stupendously. It’s here that we really see how this supergroup flows together to create alluring soundscapes. They can be charming and sweet one moment and cathartically deafen you the next with the abundance of signature post-rock crescendos. ¬†Nick Willes of Victories At Sea fills in for the acoustic sections of the tracks and becomes a highlight of the set with his signature heavy handed approach to percussion.

‘Cogs’ comes across as a more traditional shoegaze anthem but feels rather uplifting rather than downtrodden and dreary. ¬†There’s a bit of head bobbing and and apathetic swaying going on in the audience which definitely the response Minor Victories were going for when they wrote this track.

Rachel Goswell of course, is as on form as ever with haunting vocal lines and occasional introspective guitar riffs. “It’s so nice to be back in Oxford, it’s making me nervous seeing old friends and family members being in the crowd tonight,” Goswell’s modesty gives a nice authentic touch to the intimate show, especially given that playing Oxford would bring back plenty of nostalgia to Slowdive’s early career. Goswell’s ¬†delivery¬†on ‘Folk Arp’ in particular is borderline euphoric, with the rest of the band eventually diving into a noisy climax to finish the song off. It’s so well executed live, that Goswell jokingly suggests they just play it again.

Modest is also the best way to describe how Minor Victories came across as a whole tonight, as this successful headline show was anything but minor.  Succeeding in creating something new and compelling, Minor Victories surpass mere supergroup status and manage to dazzle the intimate Oxford audience.

ASHWIN BHANDARI