An evening of electronic swagger…
This year has seen a broad variety of multi-band line-ups for electronic music events. Getting the right balance on the selected artists can be a tough trick to pull off, but the Electro Punk Party, staged at The Water Rats in London’s Kings Cross, was going to do its best to present an evening of fine music for the discerning electronic music audience.
As ever, the logistics of running these events bring with it some technical problems. It’s perhaps the bane of the electronic musician that sometimes even the littlest things can bring everything to a dead halt. But aside from some minor issues (and a slightly later start), it was full steam ahead once things got going.
Microchip Junky first emerged on the music scene in 2012. Citing such diverse influences as Fad Gadget, Nitzer Ebb, Depeche Mode, The Buzzcocks and Wire, his music straddles a peculiar line between the electronic and a more industrial approach.
Much of Microchip Junky’s set tonight combines throbbing electronic percussion against sampled dialogue or simple empathic words. There’s a certain rawness to the material which often dips its toe into sleazier synth territory, including a sex-themed number that actually samples whiplashes. All of which is married to some very odd visuals (including an unsettling video of what appears to be jerking mannequins striding through a cityscape).
Yet there’s an odd accessibility to Microchip Junky’s material that somehow runs counterpoint to the idea that the first support act on should (by tradition) be the worst. The inclusion of a completely left field choice of cover song (‘Jilted John’) seals the deal, but he’s then joined on stage by Leg Puppy for ‘Swagger’ which ramps the punk attitude up to 9 with a tune whose core conceit is that everyone should “Fuck off!!”.
Next up is Pink Diamond Revue, an outfit that features mannequin Acid Dol taking stage centre. While one of his associates casually dresses Acid Dol throughout the set (also tossing golf balls and toilet roll at random), guitarist Tim Lane strikes a menacing presence on stage. There’s a dark surf guitar element to Pink Diamond Revue, which is given emphasis by live drums (the operator of which looks disturbingly similar to Henry Rollins).
Without any decent musical foundation, this cabaret approach would be tough to pull off. But there’s a vitality and energy that Pink Diamond Revue bring to the stage that works a subtle magic on the audience. While B-Movie footage and samples spool away in the background, it’s Lane’s solid guitar work that draws the focus. Often coming across like something culled from the Repo Man soundtrack, one of tonight’s attendees perhaps more accurately suggested that Pink Diamond Revue would slot right in to a David Lynch film.
Tunes such as ‘At The Discotheque’ even give it a vocodered Kraftwerkian feel at times. Meanwhile, ‘Weird Love’ mashes up the theme to The Persuaders with the ghosts of lost guitars.
All of the acts tonight bring their own visual flair along with a sense of theatre. But when Leg Puppy take to the stage, that sense of spectacle shifts up a gear. When frontman Darren casually says that they “Can’t start without the clown”, there’s a few worried looks around the audience. Is the evening going to turn into an impromptu scene from a Quentin Tarantino movie?
When said clown arrives, and the music kicks off, it’s clear that this isn’t going to be an ordinary music performance. Categorising Leg Puppy’s music would be a tough thing to sum up simply (its apparently been labelled ‘Serial Killer Step’ by some). There’s a dark electro element at play here, but at the same time there’s a brash, cheeky line in lyrics that suggests a nod to the likes of Ian Dury.
‘Selfie Stick’ (a forthcoming release) takes a timely dig at Instagram culture. The disconcerting dreamlike tones of ‘She’s Lost Her Soul’ offers up a commentary on London’s disappearing club and venue culture, with shoutouts to the likes of the Astoria, The Marquee and other classic venues (see the mini-documentary online here).
Throughout Leg Puppy’s set, the clown stalks the stage – and also the audience. Meanwhile, a man with a broom starts sweeping the front of the stage. Because at this point why not?
Things get darker for Dicepeople’s set on a stage that’s picked out only by the head mounted lights of members Matt and Rafael. Meanwhile, a black and white video collage of nuclear tests and other stark images unfolds behind them.
Dicepeople’s seductive brand of dark electro unfolds slowly with singer Atashi Tada taking a striking position stage centre. The staccato rhythms of ‘Synthetic’ gives the track a live rendering that has a particular punch to it. But it’s the cover of Depeche Mode’s ‘Strangelove’ that perhaps delivers Dicepeople’s finest moment of the night. It’s a big, gothic moment that sees Atashi’s vocals soaring and gets an enthusiastic response from the crowd.
Meanwhile, between the bands, DJs Andrew Maley and Rob Santos ably take care of DJ duties with a suitable soundtrack (including choice tunes from the likes of TR/ST and Hurts).
HOTGOTHIC’s odd combo of MicroKorg-playing Cocaine Katy, guitarist Dr Jacket and wideboy vocalist Malibu Stacy looks like they’ve all walked in from different bands. But there’s an attitude and an ear for bold melodies that makes the whole thing work.
Often, the lyrics get straight to the point: “Big dollars pay for my wife’s tits” states Stacy on ‘Big Dollars’, even as he’s blurring the lines between the stage and the audience by wandering back and forth. Meanwhile, ‘Safe As Houses’ has big percussive drum fills, while ‘Trump Card’ lends a timely political element to the performance. There’s a frenetic collage of electronic sound making up ‘Drug Problems’, which ends with Stacy writhing on the floor in front of the audience.
Every band on stage for the Electro Punk Party have their own distinct style and approach, all very different from each other. But the element that ties them all together is a theatrical approach to live performances. A far cry perhaps from gigs where everything is taken a bit too seriously and the study of what gear the bands are using is somehow more important that the actual tunes.
There’s a dynamism at work here which suggests that electronic music isn’t quite the staid music genre that it often gets painted as. There’s also an attitude and a swagger that slots in perfectly with the ‘Punk’ tag, yet steers clear of any footfalls into pastiche.
These are all bands and artists that it’s worth your while seeing if you favour spectacle in your live performances. The tunes aren’t too shabby either.