24th March | Hy-Brasil
Photos: Rowan Allen
It’s just before Madonnatron‘s set this evening at Hy-Brasil, and bassist Charlotte is nervous yet evidently ready, come what may. “My mum’s here, so I’m probably going to spend most of the set trying not to fuck up.” From the offset, it almost seems funny that there would be any feeling of nervousness, as Madonnatron demonstrate just how vigorous, eager and enthusiastic a live band they have become. Following the release of their first album last year, the four-piece from London have developed into quite the force live, the most suitable way to appreciate their curious and enlivening rock n roll.
Twin, the enigmatic and ethereal project of Christelle Atenstaedt from Bristol, opened the night with an arresting performance that was both abrasive and embracive. Atenstaedt’s voice conjures an ambience that is surprisingly spectral for how booming it sounds. There’s distortion and fragmentation, but what’s most impressive is all the various sounds Twin engages with and crafts into a cohesive whole. It’s as if many hands are tinkering with various keys and notes, processing them into something impressively organic and quite tender.
What’s immediately significant about Madonnatron is the full, rich sound they are able to deliver tonight. ‘Mother’s Funeral’ is a blurry rush of distortion and animation; the reverb is thick and lingering as the band bounce over the small stage, harmonising boldly and crafting an agitated mood. They are confident and brazen. The exuberance of ‘Headless Children’ is moulded from ghostly harmonies and a low, humming rhythm that is scraped from the gutter and churned through pedals.
Joanie leers over her synth at the crowd as she coos and howls in equal measure. Throughout she descends from the stage into the throng, dancing with the audience with an assured strut. She’s a fantastic figurehead within a group where no outright leadership is required. Stef’s vocal is the booming antithesis to Joanie’s ghostly coo, grating her throat as she barks the lyrics with venom. Despite the raspiness of their delivery, it’s unquestionable what commendable vocalists they all are.
This balance of artistic flair and unhampered freedom obviously translates into their musicianship, and is the principal reason for everything sounding as tenacious as it does. Throughout new single ‘Mermaids,’ the guitar enhances the entrancing strangeness and disorientating mood of their music, and it’s pushed high in the mix to full effect. If it wasn’t for the gravelly, garage rock nature of their sound, their music could easily have you in a trance, as it swells within another polluted riff. That’s not to say the group linger at all when performing; they wail through an impressive amount of the album and it doesn’t once feel draining.
Before you know it, the set reaches its completion under a barrage of unmitigated feedback and one last flail around the stage from the whole group. Madonnatron come from a particularly talked about community of bands and musicians, and they are perhaps the most underrated of the lot.