26th April | Rough Trade
Photos: Mar Reyes
Rough Trade’s shiny new venue, nestled behind the store, is like a musical isolation tank: there are no windows, no posters and dark walls surround you. This suited tonight’s line up of utterly immersive music.
An unexpected highlight came in the form of EBU who emerged from under her hood, adorned with light-attracting make-up and hovering about the stage with a form of new romantic body-popping. Her music consisted of a plethora of Aphex Twin-styled keyboard sounds and live vocal sampling, contorted with various dials and switches. Delia Derbyshire would have beamed with pride.
The unnatural vocal noises, retro blips and bastardised frequencies made the music as unsettling as it was mesmerising. There was an absence of top line to follow for most of the performance; instead it took the form of a robotic-sounding dystopian soundscape you could place alongside Kraftwerk or Goldfrapp. The on-stage demeanour felt very Gothic, but in the literary sense – being both regal and slightly sinister. Many would dismiss this kind of music, but that would merely be down to taste as it was undoubtedly entertaining, skilful and fiercely imaginative.
Next up were Housewives, who inhabited the area where noise rock meets jazz. As the saxophone yelped its notes, the music erratically jerked forward, occasionally stumbling into a frenzied breakdown you’d associate with some of The Rapture’s early efforts. The latter songs consisted more of looped samples and beats which peddled with increasing magnitude, while the sweat-drenched saxophonist flailed his arms like a distinctly cerebral Bez. It gradually became a case of zonal appreciation, with those fully captivated having an ecstatic experience, while some others of us felt a bit punch drunk.
Spectres arrived in matching full black and began with a pulsing sound of white noise and jabs of screeching guitar. There was a definite krautrock spine running through the music with the muddied distortion and motorik drums which hammered like an angry printing press. The bass rumbled ever louder with every gear change of the music and the menacing grandiosity of each track made you feel as if you were in the musical equivalent of a horror film. The flickering black-and-white projections and intermittent lighting like that of a failing light bulb lacquered that atmosphere on all the more.
We were treated to a handful of new songs, with the first being ‘Sociopath Discotheque.’ The song felt musically busier than usual and the overtly doom-laden mood of it could slot into the same ilk as Tool. It had a relentlessly powerful build which broke with satisfying ferocity as it clattered to a stop, drenched in reverb and sounding like a 1950s industrial estate from a mile away.
That portion of new tracks felt particularly aggressive and was accented with especially bare intervals, before leaping back into an almost a violent tumbling drum beat. There was a sort of euphoria in each dynamic drop, like that moment in the pit where you realise your nose has been bleeding for ten minutes and you haven’t noticed. It was quite refreshing to return to some punk nastiness in the form of ‘Welcoming the Flowers,’ having languished in a cathartic mire of deep-toned distortion for the mid-section of the gig.
The set was as satisfying as it was disorienting, and went to show how effectively Spectres and the support acts could create a musical world so packed with character and detail. It was escapism of the melancholy kind, not for the masses but immensely satisfying for those of us who love it.