Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Lose it in Hoxton : Austra and Kate Boy play live…

June has been a busy gig month, too many bands I wanted to see decided that it was all happening this month and in the end I scaled it down to four while keeping fingers crossed the ones I missed will turn up again later in the year, or even better at Bestival.

Following Emika’s fab show, Austra put on a performance of sound histrionics that could not disappoint, even after some reservations on my part in an initial luke warm listening experience of the new album Olympia. But and big *but* streaming first listens is never quite the same as listening to the album properly, minus annoying ads, inopportune pauses, and constant clickity of play buttons rudely interrupting a smooth and consistent appraisal of the noise you are trying to connect with. 

Having heard some of the new tracks live, they definitely did start to resonate and as I’ve said many times, instantaneous isn’t always a good thing, ‘What We Done’ and ‘Painful Like’ sounded divine, despite an overwhelming need in me to change 'done' to 'did', but importantly, I have learnt to love Olympia, particularly Annie (Oh muse, you) which I initially thought ‘what the fuckery?’ if I’m honest.  If your passion for music lies outside the charts or commercial radio, some effort brings reward. Anyway, not wishing to be so serious, basically it was a good show and a really pleasing set list that rolled back and forth from Feel it Break to Olympia with ease, beat and pulse.

The epic sound of Katie’s operatic vocals and the somewhat unusually large membership of the band (although still modest by Arcade Fire or Polyphonic Spree standards) plus the simplicity of the stage set and lighting make the whole experience a big and yet strangely understated thing…

The dynamics of the six members works like a well oiled reciprocal, call me old fashioned but I like that real band feel, looking to each other for cues and everything! It was unmistakably live, from when the lady with large spectacles *said that in QT Dimblebot fashion* drumming missed her cue (and tapped her drumsticks together to start tracks, haven’t seen that for a while), to Katie’s microphone switching off and a missed note in ‘Spellwork’, it smacked of imperfectly perfect, true bloopers bringing out the authenticity of a performance which I’m sure a lot of bands wouldn’t even risk in this day of gimmicky standardisation.

‘Lose It’ was a highlight for me, a searing lament of a pop song along with ‘Beat and the Pulse’ and ‘The Choke’, all teased into new versions for this current tour nothing short of celestially. The show opened brilliantly and continued with new tracks like ‘Reconcile’, ‘Sleep’ and ‘Forgive Me’ that reminded me of a Chromatics song in places, which was a treat, as I’d foregone a Chromatics gig a few days previously.  They went off and came back for an encore, I say ‘off’, there’s actually nowhere to go, they moved to the side, had a quick chat and a few hugs, while the audience did the old foot stamp and they sidled demurely back, throwing themselves in ‘Spellwork’ and ending with ‘Hurt Me Now’.

The main backing singers provided by the sisters Tasseomancy really weaved the spell of Austra together and were given quite a moment to front in ‘Lose It’ as Katie sat down to sing. I felt they, as an indie pagan folk duo probably had a bit more input into Olympia this time around which could be why the doom laden electronic die hards from Feel it Break times may need to readjust their ears a little? There does seem something a little lighter and confident with this new release, more shadowy than dark perhaps. They all seem to have an equal presence as part of Austra’s identity despite the signature of Katie Stelmanis’ vocal power.

I would say that bands doing album promo gigs on the day they release is a tricky one for me though as it doesn’t give you much time to listen, I felt this with Emika too, release and give it a fortnight? Give us time to react and know what we’re hearing. Maybe that’s just me?

Austra are playing at KOKO in November so do get along if you are so inclined, you won’t be disappointed.

*photographs are mine*

And now for Kate Boy…

Just 48 hours later, I was back at the same venue, which is a pretty cool one to be honest, small but of note, however, on this particular night, it could have done with some air conditioning, highlighted by Kate (who’s Australian) saying it was too hot.

It did feel like trying to listen to icy Nordic electro, (the rest of Kate Boy are Swedish and it certainly trades on that) in the subtropics. This culminated in a weird mash up of heat colliding with icy sound and people fanning one another while sipping beer from plastic glasses. I love London.

I enjoyed this gig despite the closeness, which is quite a lot as I suffer heat in a generally irritable way. I have to say Hoxton Square Bar and Kitchen (they could drop that kitchen bit really) is uber friendly and you forgive it most things.

Now this gig was a little more gimmicky. There were bleepy machine things that probably weren’t doing much and even though the drummers did a ‘drum test’, I suspect there was some unlive jiggery-pokey going on in places. The laser show was probably a bit much for a teeny tiny sized room about the size of a school assembly hall but it all looked very impressive as the band emerged dressed in a baseball cap and erm bondage overalls (?) I liked the effect of the androgynous blend. 

Most importantly, Kate Akhurst was singing live. I will forgive all manner of rigged up machinery and pretence so long as someone is singing, properly, and people leaving were smitten with the performance. The six songs all sounded good with ‘In Your Eyes’ and ‘Northern Lights’ stealing the show. I liked it and I want to see Kate Boy again once an album is out and they have more material. I said at the latter end of 2012 Kate Boy were ones to watch and this gig has re-affirmed that.

And digressing a little, I noted the feminist leanings of some of the lyrics at Austra and the androgyny  of  Kate Boy  and was reminded of a post I wrote about women in electronic music a few months back What's with all the theatrics in female electronica lately?, it is focussed more on Planningtorock and Gazelle Twin but is kind of relevant...

Kate Boy spoke recently about the conscious decision to blend the band here and stand as a collective. It seems women and bands are now stealing the shows with good music and imagery that confronts the pitfalls of being a female front woman defined by 'looks' first and 'music' second, or any one member getting all the attention. Not an easy task.

My next stop at gig central is Ssion (said ‘shun’ apparently) with Twat Boutique (try saying that with a straight face) in the line up. I’m sooo excited…


Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Emika – live at Birthdays, London.

Dva is out now and every song has been to my liking so far. After seeing her live last night, I know this will be an ongoing love affair. For such haunting and intense music, her performance is surprisingly warm, although this was a venue with a stage about the size of my sitting room (that even she commented on as tiny half way through her set); it was hard to not feel it was an intimate gig. 

Her performance was full of energy from start to finish and she mingled in with her fans before and after the show to sign copies of Dva after injecting some humour into the proceedings when technical hitches threatened to scupper the beginning of the set.

There was of course a lot of backing as she’d have to be an octopus to play it all herself, but vocally it was live and tracks had been tweaked slightly for the show which I also like to hear. Favourites for me were ‘Searching’ (slightly edged up the jealousy theme with the uncensored ‘ shhhhush bitch look into my eyes’), ‘Drop The Other’ and ‘Centuries’ (minus the operatic interlude but that probably is too much to ask) And I loved the way she messed about with 'She Beats', teasing the crowd with slowing and speeding it up in a kind of mischievous 'I'm doing all this with a button' honesty.

I do wish she’d played a few more from her debut, particularly ‘Common Exchange’ which is my fave orProfessional Loving’…but you can’t have everything. Overall, it was a great gig and my only slight criticism is that her encore was a song she’d already done, not that ‘Sing to Me’ isn’t a great track to finish with…but she had already done it early on in the gig? Anyway, enjoy some blurry pics with me, it was so dark and she didn't keep still for long enough...

This is the new video for ‘Centuries’; it’s Emika baring her soul through dream-like nightmarish sequences, quite literally; vajazzled and eating her own eyelashes (ick)…but all in the best possible taste of course. I love the melodrama of the operatic part; in fact I love all of it. 

The claustrophobic and spiralling emotions of her songs and videos (made with Berlin based filmmaker Matt Lambert) sort of contradict the very smiley, high-energy show she puts on where she just looks like she’s having a ball, particularly when she poured water over her head before the encore and said ‘I’ve always wanted to do that’ and ended the gig with ‘I’ll be signing my album if you want to say hi or cuddle me later’. 

She is fab and here’s hoping she gets a bigger venue sometime soon, she’s more than worthy of it…

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

iamamiwhoami (Live at Brixton Electric) and new tracks from Hot Chip, Austra and Kate Boy.

iamamiwhoami – live at Brixton Electric 30 May 2013

The iamamiwhoami show at Brixton Electric held all the same eccentric pop charm as the Southbank Centre date back in October; lovely crowd, and great atmosphere, a wonderfully mixed set list of ‘Bounty’ and ‘Kin’ beautifully performed by the tin foil queen silhouetted by a cube. This post is more to share the photographs and to reinforce that they are so worth going to see, jump on here iamamiwhoami-live-uk-debut-at-southbank to read about their debut in London.

As always, Jonna Lee was ready to put her arms out to the fans and receive gifts of foil crowns, all naturally shimmied in with some pretty quirky clock face like dancing mimicked by the adoring followers. The iamamiwhoami crowd is the most diverse, friendliest and enthused I've seen with lots of singing along and jumping about for tracks like 'Goods' , 'Clump', and 'Idle Talk'.

Perhaps the only slight criticism (and it’s not really much) was that the sound wasn't as impressive as the Southbank Centre and the interaction between Jonna and her backing singer for tracks like 'Idle Talk' wasn't quite as crisp. The Queen Elisabeth Hall at Southbank was a pretty amazing auditorium acoustically and gave much more of performance grandiose. This, of course, would be hard to replicate at Brixton Electric with its more traditional gig feel, although overall, you would have been mesmerised as a die-hard or new recruit post Kin for this pop art music.

As venues goes it was quite nice, reminding me a little of a purple themed Koko in Camden if you look at the pic to the right (past my hair and half pint of red wine *classy*). It has the same sort of old theatre feel with lots of seats and places to chill between sets. Support were Rex the Dog, very loud and completely fitting with remixes of New Order, Fever Ray, The Knife and Robyn.

Here's 'Idle Talk' from the night...enjoy!

Hot Chip: Dark and Stormy

I loved this in an instant fluttery way that has never happened for me with this band. I used to find Hot Chip extremely annoying but after some patience I now get them. I even quite like his voice. If you feel dark and stormy, this will disperse the clouds with lyrics like ‘We’ll make our own love, outrun the sadness’ Seize the day with an aaahoo sing along to this super catchy track.

Austra: Painful Like

Austra’s new track ‘Painful Like’ left me much more excited about seeing them in June than the last track ‘Home’. Both are coming from the new LP ‘Olympia’ which you can now pre-order here.  Katie Stelmanis is the mistress of melodic, neo-goth drama yet accessible dance beat, not unlike ‘Beat and the Pulse’, which is still a sweetheart of mine.

Kate Boy: The Way We Are

I’m also going to see Sweden’s Kate Boy soon and it’s all sounding verily promising; gaps will be filled in once I’ve been to the gig.  All three releases have been an itsy-bitsy bit samey (in a nice way, ‘signature’ is probably a kinder way of putting it) so it will be interesting to see their show. Her vocals and delivery remind me of a few darlings of mine, I’ve decided lately I find it a bit irksome being told what a band sound vaguely or massively like before I’ve heard them so listen and decide for yourselves.

All these tracks are (erm?) luxurious…luxuriate in them all above. Blog love x

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