Conduct The Good Will Social Club, Winnipeg MB, December 19

Conduct The Good Will Social Club, Winnipeg MB, December 19
Photo: Greg Gallinger
It's been nearly a year since Winnipeg post-punk act, Conduct, recorded their debut album with Chicago's Steve Albini at Electrical Audio in Chicago. After a few delays and an aborted release date,  Fear and Desire will finally be available across the country through Public Tone Records on January 27, 2015.
Formed out of the ashes of Departures, the realigned four-piece have obviously spent that time wisely, hitting the road with Tunic and playing a handful of impressive local shows including an opening slot for Syracuse's Perfect Pussy, while honing in on a potent live attack that captures the spirit of '90s Touch and Go bands and distils it into a prairie  powder-keg of lurching rhythms and volatile blasts of urgent noise.
Grounded in the rhythm section of  Rob Gardiner (drums) and Graeme Wolfe (bass), Conduct's galloping drums, unwinding bass lines, staccato guitars and  gruff vocals of singer/guitarist Nicholas Liang are best understood through songs like "A Figure" and "Fear and Desire." Wrapped beneath a thick blanket of manipulated noise and screaming bursts of guitars that feel like shards of steel, the interplay between Liang and Stephen Kesselman coloured many of the songs in the nearly hour-long set.
Not afraid to break up the pressing dynamics of many of their songs with long, drawn-out sections of feedback and droning noise, at one point Gardiner was pounding out a tom-heavy backbeat while both Liang and Kesselman wrangled and knocked their guitars, coaxing every last bit of sound out of them. It's these moment of built-up tension that the band do best, throwing themselves into the final few songs of the night with reckless abandon that at times felt like it was teetering on the edge. Walking a fine line, Liang's intense stage presence and impassioned vocal delivery can become overwhelming at times, but not enough to distract from overall impact of the group's songs.
For the final song of the night, Kesselman bashed and banged a couple damaged cymbals with a hammer that resonated through the whole room, while Gardiner and Wolfe built up the momentum, before letting it all crash down around them. During this extended outro, Liang returned and lit his legs on fire at the front of the stage to the shock of most of the crowd. It felt a bit contrived on Liang's part; the band don't need gimmicks like lighting yourself on fire to have the impact they desire. Chalk it up to pent-up exuberance, but next time Liang should leave the lighter fluid at home.