Spectrum // Live Review & Photoset

14th May | The Lanes

Photos: Lorenzo Ottone

Have you ever had history one step from you? Probably we all did. We’ve all been on school trips to Buckingham Palace, on rainy family weekends to Stonehenge or maybe even to the Louvre. This time, though, I’m talking about semi-forgotten history, like a little-known Medieval Italian church or a long-lost Flemish oil on canvas. Pete Kember is, in fact, one of those few artists who can actually claim to have revolutionised modern music. His figure, though, seems to be way too overlooked but holds a cult status among a significant group of faithful aficionados.

Ex-indie kids, shoegazers and psych freaks filled The Lanes for Spectrum, one of the many side projects of the former Spacemen 3 leader.

In the venue’s garden, Kember is shy and generous, exactly like his set. With a minimalist stage presence Kember, accompanied by one guitarist only, is the show’s deus-ex-machina. A table filled with synths, sequencers and pedals is all Spectrum needs to paint his ethereal and trippy sound palette – trippy as the optical projections that wrap the stage up in psychedelic and synthetic lights, enhancing the overall uplifting experience.

‘Transcendental’ is possibly the most accurate adjective to describe Spectrum’s live set. Not only are the subtly fuzzy chord progressions ethereal, but spiritual themes are often referred to.

Should we call Spectrum’s music psychedelic or shoegaze? Probably both and neither at the same time. Many have labelled it drone rock, but what stands out for sure is that this is the far-out musical and artistic vision of a sophisticated and sensitive mind. From as early as the mid-1980s, Kember has been blending his love for obscure 1960s psych with his fascination for synthetic sounds, resulting an avant-garde sound investigator.

What matters with Spectrum is the overall stream of music, an extensive fuzzy and synthetic trip where setlist is relevant up to a certain point. Some Spectrum anthems (“Rock ’n’ Roll is Killing my Life” to mention one) are missing, but they are surprisingly replaced by Spacemen 3 numbers like “Big City (Everyone I Know Can Be Found Here)” and Kember’s own drone rock take on Dandy Livingstone’s skinhead reggae classic “Big City”, a song that paved the way for synth experimentations.

What strikes you the most is how Kember never sounds outdated or a product of his times. His music still sounds fresh and ahead of its time as much as it did more than 30 years ago with Spacemen 3 first and Spectrum later. This feeling is witnessed by the endless number of contemporary bands influenced by his trademark sound.

See Spectrum play ‘Under The Taboo’ live here: