Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Live Review: Dusky, Tom Demac (Abandon Silence) (Liverpool Echo)


Tom Demac

Abandon Silence, The Kazimier

15th February 2013

Upon announcing tonight’s show, Abandon Silence made the decision to keep the details as ambiguous as possible. Due to the welcome renovation of The Masque even the venue remained unannounced, as we were promised ‘somewhere near their two regular homes’, causing speculation to turn into dread as the lifeless pit that is Seal Street’s Hi-Fi seemed like the most likely location. The Kazimier came to the rescue eventually, raising the prospect of what would be an interesting match up between Dusky and Tom Demac’s new, electronic sound and The Kazimier’s old theatrical aesthetic.

Despite the 500+ capacity, tickets were sold out over a week before the event. This isn’t unusual for an Abandon Silence show, as their reputation for the shrewdest bookers in town is well deserved. What is unusual is the reaction after tickets sold out, as comments flooded the Facebook event page begging for tickets, offering to ‘pay double’ and ‘top dollar’ to be amongst the crowd. Now as impressive as they are, you can catch the likes of Dusky and Tom Demac at club nights every week here in the North and they are far from exclusive bookings. So what was it that caused this mad hysteria? Over the last two years, Abandon Silence has spearheaded the electronic movement bubbling around us, opening up the city’s consciousness and making room for the countless new promoters (Pause, Polka, Get Down, etc). Sure, there’s always been Chibuku and Yousef’s Circus, but as the years go on these events have seen themselves grow increasingly disassociated with youth culture in the city and even more so, youth culture in electronic music, as lineups become more predictable and more repetitive. Whilst I’m not suggesting that they are on their way out, as shows continue to reach capacity with no signs of slowing down, I would argue that their demographics have certainly changed over the last few years, allowing Abandon Silence to provide a new home for the remarkable number of student and young graduates who love electronic music. Tonight’s show is a culmination of all this.

First up tonight is Tom Demac. Over the last two years Demac has cultivated a strong reputation for a unique and innovative sound, due largely due to the secluded and ‘’Influence free’’ surroundings of his home in North Wales. After a foray of releases on acclaimed labels such as Hypercolour and Pets Recordings, as well as a track of the year contender with the ODB sampling Dirty Honey, Tom’s 2012 culminated in one of the most revered debut sets the Boiler Room has ever seen back in late August. Here in The Kazimier we are given plenty of reasons to believe the hype, as those industrial baselines anchor what is an astonishingly wide range of textures and styles, from the Ghostly slow building Obstructing The Light to the all out juggernaut that is Dirty Honey. The crowd is receptive and lively, yelping and fist-pumping the air as instructed by the Welshman, who stands behind the decks with the ease and composure as if he just found himself mixing one day and happened to be really bloody good at it. Don’t you just hate him.

This evenings Headliner’s Dusky are trusted with the 1:15 – 2:45 slot. Comprised of London based duo Nick Harriman and Alfie Granger-Howell, Dusky have found themselves spearheading a new wave of UK bassline crossover acts, not least down to the impeccable Flo Jam and their better-than-the-original remix of Justin Martin’s Don’t Go. Its easy to forget that Dusky were a footnote on the first Boddika headlined Abandon Silence showcase at the Masque a few months ago, so their jump to this evenings headline act indicates the rapid growth in popularity not only of them, but of the garage infused deep house genre that they represent.  The duo alternate between mixing duties, as new tracks from their forthcoming AUS Music EP Nobody Else sit comfortably with some old Swamp 81 classics, in what is an accessible and engaging set from producers with one eye on their mainstream appeal. Their will have polarised opinion tonight, as purists who hideously try and remind us that ‘deep house is the new dubstep’ and kids who are just starting to scratch the surface of electronic music look for their excitement in very different places. Whichever way you look at it, Dusky’s set reminds us that, at a time when electronic music is becoming increasingly self-conscious and introvert, there is still an art to crowd-pleasing that must be celebrated. 

The venue looks fantastic, as the excellent Abandon Silence posters and what can only be described as a giant claw set the stage in a way that truly frames the DJs as performers. Space is certainly limited, and any brave attempt at dancing is often met with a scowl from some girl who’s feet you have just trampled, but when you look around you as dancers pour over the steps and the balcony above it, you can’t help but feel like you are part of a community that cares deeply for its music and for having an unbelievable time. It still doesn’t beat the Shipping Forecast though, as that connection between DJ and audience fails to replicate itself on a bigger scale, proving to be a more essential factor in Abandon Silence’s success than perhaps first thought. What tonight confirms is that the team behind Abandon Silence sure do know what they’re doing. From the shrewd, on the ball bookings of Tom Demac and Dusky, the nature in which they played with hype and expectation as they drip fed the details of the event, to the impeccable choice and decoration of the venue, this really was a virtuoso performance that cements its position as one of the finest electronic nights outside of London.  

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Live Review: The Joy Formidable (BidoLito!)



The Kazimier

22nd January 2013

Four years ago, Welsh trio THE JOY FORMIDABLE signed to Warner Music Group imprint Atlantic Records ahead of their debut full length album The Big Roar. Having toured relentlessly for years, supporting the likes of The Temper Trap, Passion Pit and even The Manics, that old phrase ‘stadium band’ was thrown around as they became synonymous with big guitars and even bigger choruses and the British media clung on desperately to their latest hope for a British invasion. 

The backdrop is impressive, as projections of city skylines and a bright flashing fox silhouette moves gracefully through each song, reminding us that their ambitions still extend beyond the intimate settings of the Kazimier. Lead singer Ritzy Bryan almost skips on stage and launches straight into promising new track Cholla, as the band waste no time in pushing that glaringly unreliable Kazimier sound system to its limits. That familiar baseline introduces debut single and favourite Austere, as singer Ritzy bravely attempts to induce a sing-along to a crowd who look as if they wished they’d taken tinnitus a bit more seriously. The brilliance of Austere signifies their greatest strength, as the soft vocals contrast with the dense, hard accompaniment, finding subtlety and grace in even the loudest places. However, as Cradle quickly follows alongside Tendons, and it becomes clear that each song will be followed by an onslaught of instrumental breakdowns, which impressive though they are sonically, do threaten to overshadow Ritzy’s vocals, consequently dehumanising the songs and reducing them to a exercise in just playing fucking loudly. Wolf’s Law opener This Ladder Is Ours passes by unassumingly, before the stunning The Greatest Light Is The Greatest Shade provides the backdrop for that piercing, monster of a riff, showcasing exactly the kind of life affirming bombast that we need from The Joy Formidable. 

Tonight is very much a set of two halves. Their early material is an impressive demonstration in loud, shoe-gaze soundscape that you would not feel uncomfortable mentioning in the same breath as You Made Me Realise era-My Bloody Valentine. Songs like The Greatest Light, I Don’t Want To See You Like This, and Austere are effortless, as the vocals, band and audience all become part of the same loud, abrasive but most importantly, fun sound. Newer tracks like This Ladder is Ours and Little Blimp can at times feel like aggression for the sake of aggression, as if by turning up those vocals and honing in on those choruses, this wonderful energy turns into something quite vulgar, seeing them land on the wrong side of Paramore. I’m not suggesting that they are wrong to aim for a wider, more inclusive audience, but it seems a shame to see them abandon the aesthetic that made them one of the most exciting new bands in the country five years ago. 

All their short-comings though, and there are a few, can be forgiven as we come to their finale song Whirring. Make no mistake, this is an unbelievable, career defining song, up there with the best that the UK guitar music has produced in the last ten years. Those brash opening chords signal the start of a ten minute bombardment, balancing restraint with attack until those final moments when you are swept up in the sea of noise and left exhausted, bewildered, but absolutely ecstatic.

Mike Townsend

Feature: DEATH MASKS (BidoLito!)


As I sit alone in The Shipping Forecast awaiting the arrival of St Helens’ post punk revivalists DEATH MASKS, I prepare myself for what might be a challenging interview. Pretending to make notes, images of glum faces quickly escalate into full black suits and eye-liner as indie stereotypes and The Shipping Forecast’s beer start to get the better of me. 

Death Masks began as a solo project for talented multi-instrumentalist Thom Tyrer, as the stress and tribulations of his former collaborative projects drove him to become a solo artist. Several raw and unpolished demos emerged from a homemade studio in his basement, demonstrating a songwriting prowess that was yet to find its voice, as Thom struggled to translate his sonic vision for the songs into actual recordings. Eight months later and this, accompanied with the urge to perform his songs live, lead him into recruiting two more guitarists, a drummer and a keyboard player until they became the five-piece that we see today.

Even at just three tracks, Death Masks’s first eponymous EP on E.D.I.L.S is a varied affair. Opener Times Six is a brooding, stodgy slow burner, with menacing vocals as Thom sneers “someone’s watching you” repeatedly to a wonderfully chilling effect. Final track Gather Your Thoughts is a startling contrast, as the pounding accompaniment is replaced by a light, sparse guitar line that wouldn’t have been out of place on the last Drums album. Having been together for less than two years, it is understandable that the band might still be searching for their ‘Death Masks sound’. Thom concedes that will need to nail it down somewhat, suggesting the new EP will  have a “much harder edge than the old’ as it brings elements of their ‘‘fierce live act’’ into the studio. I suspect they aren’t referring to Beyonce, as the bands passion and confidence in themselves as performers begins to radiate from all members. Despite the fact that they have only done a “handful of shows” together, this live sound is clearly deeply important to them. This desire to translate your live sound onto record is something that has driven guitar bands for decades. Now before your eyes start to roll, consider the that until now, all their recorded output so far has been written, recorded and produced by Thom alone in a homemade basement studio. To jump from a solo artist to a five piece is a testament to how big he thought his recordings were capable of sounding, and Thom gratefully admits that his new band mates made the new EP “the easiest recording experience of his career”. As we arrive at the subject of influences, Matt Wilcock is quick to cite Glaswegian noise pioneers Mogwai and of course My Bloody Valentine, whilst Thom reflects on the more delicate, melodic tendencies of Norwegian producer Lindstrom and The Cure. This paints a nice picture of how the band function in their songwriting and recording element, with the instrumentalists adding the muscle behind Thom’s carefully crafted compositions. Thom vehemently corrects me when I ask if song writing duties are still maintained on solely by him however, suggesting that “everyone chips in”. Whilst I suspect his humility might be getting the better of him, it’s not difficult to notice his relief that he is no longer doing this on his own. The three tracks on their new EP, a split release with fellow E.D.I.L.S band mates Tear Talk, certainly succeeds in refining their sound, and is evidence of a band who are starting to recognise their strengths. Their Fleetwood Mac melodies come drenched in such a dense, unnerving accompaniment that makes them so exciting and so engaging, playing dark and light against each other so effortlessly yet so deliberately with an astonishing confidence for a band who have yet to be together for such a short period of time.


Conversation inevitably turns to the name, as Death Masks already find themselves fighting off the misery and gloom tags that their name might suggest.  Its true that even at this early stage, gloom seems to be following them around. When Thisisfakediy featured them in their Neu Bulletin last year they felt the need to apologise for “creeping their readers out’’, and their photo shoot for this feature is hardly going to make you feel warm and cuddly inside. Whilst this image certainly isn’t something that the band is actively trying to perpetuate, Thom recognises that “it’s important to keep some mystery whilst maintaining some sort of image when it comes to public perception”. It is their music though more than anything that has lead to this dark illustration of them. Thom’s menacing, almost baritone vocals will draw inevitable Ian Curtis comparisons, but it’s contemporary bands like London’s O. Children and Indiana’s brilliant Stagnant Pools that they sit most comfortably alongside. Resisting the urge to describe it as ‘post-Interpol’, mainstream indie’s affection for post-punk revival that saw the likes of Interpol and Editors headlining festivals a few years back certainly seems to have dwindled, something Joe is quick to dismiss: “I think there will always be room for bands trying to create new and exciting music, and I think it’s important for us to stick to what we know and love”. You have to agree, as Liverpool looks to become one of the finest hubs for new music in the North, with promotors such as Deep Hedonia, Everisland and more dedicating an increasingly frequent set of shows to the most challenging and forward thinking new artists about. As one of the most self contained local scenes in the country, Liverpool does seem almost impervious to national shifts in taste and fashion. I’m not trying to suggest that Liverpool is out of touch, its just that with such a brilliant infrastructure in place, with its world class venues, huge network of culture press, internationally renowned festival, and global publishers and distributors (Sentric and Ditto Music), everything is in place for Liverpool to produce and cultivate its own cultural movements without the need to connect with London. This self-sustainability gives Liverpool an invaluable lack of self awareness and self-consciousness that allows bands like Death Masks to ‘‘stick to what they know and love’’, because they will ultimately be judged and celebrated on the basis that they have produced a piece of art that justifies their stubborn integrity.

One thing that stays with me after meeting the band is their unrelenting passion for what they do. Conversation regularly turns to their past experiences in other projects, and Thom talks warmly about his and Michael’s shared basement studio and Joe about his experience as a studio engineer. Even as I leave for five minutes to go to the bar, I return to find them in an animated discussion about their vinyl collections. The love they have for their craft is infectious, and as they develop and attention starts to grow it will translate into a dedication and persistence that will surely see them step up into the Liverpool elite.

Catch Death Masks at Mello Mello on the 22nd March, as they play alongside Tear Talk to launch their new EP. 

Mike Townsend