Corsica Studios, London
Wednesday November 20 2013
Blokes behind laptops, making left-field electronic
noises. That's the flavour of the early part of this night.
An audience stands dutifully watching Dale Cornish nodding to himself as an assortment of beatz 'n' effects thump out of the PA. It's not bad stuff, if you're into beatz 'n' effects, but there's no show, nothing to see. Dale Cornish even has to tell the audience his set has ended - by rather cheesily applauding himself - otherwise everyone would have probably just kept on standing there, waiting for the next beat to drop.
Dalhous ring the changes a bit, in that they are two blokes behind a laptop. Double the excitement, there, obviously. But, as I stand in the crowd, watching two bobbing heads behind the laptop lid, I can't help thinking that the concept of putting a laptop artist on stage is frankly a bit flimsy. There's no particular reason for these artists to be here, since they don't actually do anything that anybody can see.
Quite possibly they don't
do anything at all, since it's obviously easy to run pre-recorded stuff
while nodding along and occasionally prodding the hardware, for that essential
element of sheer visceral thrills. C'mon, guys. Either cut the crap and
admit you're really just DJs - in which case, get into
the DJ booth and leave the stage free for performers - or bring on fire-eaters
girls, or something.
There are no fire-eaters in HTRK's set, and while vocalist Jonnine Standish essays the occasional glacial shimmy, no dancing girls, either. But for all their reserved, detached demeanour, HTRK have presence.
Both members of the band stare blankly in the direction of the audience without ever quite acknowledging the presence of a couple of hundred bodies in the room, and yet, somehow, they command attention. Nigel Yang sends ripples of treated guitar out into the fog; Jonnine Standish wavers, willowy in the gloom, her vocals a ghostly croon.
The sound rolls
out like cumulus clouds, massive and volutptuous - and, somehow, at the
same time starkly reductionist. The ingredients are simple - voice, programming,
percussion - the effect weirdly
lavish in its wall-eyed implacability.
So far, so HTRK. But the band are playing all new material in this set, from the as yet unreleased album Psychic 9 - 5 Club, and it's a measure of how captivating HTRK's slo-mo doom disco can be that although every tune is unfamiliar, the audience's attention never wavers. There's an almost soulful feel to the new songs.
While they're never exactly upbeat
(it would be astounding if HTRK forgot themselves sufficiently to go upbeat),
tonight there's a wistful,
reflective feel leavening
HTRK's trademark towering darkness. 'The Body You Deserve', which builds
from a sepulchral, drifting thing, into a blurred anthem, and it's probably
a good pointer to where HTRK are going next - into the long, dark teatime
of the soul.
Dale Cornish: Facebook