The intimate surroundings of The Workshop in London’s Shoreditch provided the venue for an evening headlined by emerging Mute artist POLLY SCATTERGOOD with the added bonus of Melbourne’s PARRALOX as support. It was an enticing line-up although the possibility of late stage times as had been usual with hosts EQ Music’s previous showcases meant steady rather that swift ticket sales for the event. Luckily, common sense prevailed when a public announcement was made that the evening would conclude before the last mainline trains left the capital. As a result, the event eventually became a sell out. This is an important lesson for promoters who need to understand that clubbers and music fans are different beasts and late starts for live acts are not particularly appealing to the latter.
Led by the multi-talented John Von Ahlen, PARRALOX introduced their brand new singer Johanna Gervin, formally of THE ULTRASONICS. PARRALOX have undergone several changes in the vocal department since their brilliant debut album ‘Electricity’ in 2008 but have maintained a strong cult following over the years. Despite their pure pop credentials, they have even been invited to play Goth festival Infest, such has been the breadth of their appeal. With the striking presence of Lilo Topchev on electronic percussion next to the duo, the material at The Workshop was drawn from all phases of PARRLOX’s career.
The Alan Parsons cover ‘Eye in The Sky’ opened the set. From their polarising reinterpretations album ‘Recovery’, this collection should really be seen only as a stopgap as PARRALOX plan their next strategy. A surprise came with the schaffel stomp of ‘Black Jeans’ from ‘Electricity’ before the wonderful SHANNON-esque electro of ‘Hotter’. Prior the premiere of new material, PARRALOX treated the crowd to possibly their best number ‘Sharper Than A Knife’. After six years, this ‘Take My Breath Away’ for the 21st Century still stands out; Johanna though gave it as fresh slant with a fiercer Cyndi Lauper based demeanour. The set concluded with ‘Electric Nights’ and ‘Crying On The Dancefloor’, both developing on PARRALOX’s more club based Hi-NRG focus since their second album ‘State Of Decay’. The next phase of PARRALOX certainly has plenty of momentum.
POLLY SCATTERGOOD released her self-titled debut album in 2009 to great critical acclaim. Her guest spot on BEF’s 2012 covers LP ‘Music of Quality & Distinction – Dark’ singing the Bacharach and David classic ‘The Look Of Love’ also exhibited her versatility as a interpreter as well as a songwriter. With influences such as BJORK, KATE BUSH and COCTEAU TWINS, her promising sound has undergone a natural progression for its grower of a follow-up ‘Arrows’. Taking on more synthetic textures but retaining her kooky, affected vocals, the brilliant ‘Cocoon’ and ‘Falling’ initiated proceedings. With her charming banter and enigmatic oddness, Scattergood came over like a cross between Sarah Brightman and Sally Thomsett from ‘Man About the House’. Swigging from her brandy bottle for medicinal purposes, she very much endeared herself to everyone present.
‘Subsequently Lost’ almost stole the show with its accessible NEW ORDER drive and an air of fragility. A vocodered double track provided a chilling schizophrenic feel. ‘Disco Damaged Kid’ was another enticing casualty ditty that successfully merged Norfolk with Berlin! With the horrendous rainy winter the UK was having as the backdrop, the ‘Arrows’ material now made total sense. However, when Scattergood opted for her starker, more esoteric compositions like ‘Colours Colliding’ and ‘Machines’, it did appear to bemuse the club inclined regulars in attendance while the crowd who were there for her were totally mesmerised.
On the passionate and stripped bare ‘Miss You’, her totally bonkers stage persona really let rip. Despite her traumas in Polly World, everyone is rooting for her and this is her trump card! When the set concluded with the deliciously wired avant pop of ‘Wanderlust’, live keyboardist Glenn Kerrigan joined Scattergood at her Moog Little Phatty for a magnificent sweeping and swirly climax. Scattergood gave a wonderfully passionate performance that revealed a captivating vulnerability. As an artist marked out in the vein of Elizabeth Fraser and Alison Goldfrapp, luckily she is on a label that will let her persue artistic aspirations rather than push for sales. Her career trajectory can only ascend; it should be a cracking third or fourth album…
POLLY SCATTERGOOD ‘Arrows’is released by Mute Artists. ‘Subsequently Lost’ is released as a download EP on 10th March 2014 with remixes by PARRALOX and an exciting new talent named Vince Clarke! Pre-order via iTunes
PARRALOX ‘Recovery’ is released by Subterrane / Conzoom Records
Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Richard Price and Chi Ming Lai
9th February 2014