Little Death Machine
Power Lunches, London
Friday December 20 2013
Dressmaker fill the subterranean shoebox of Power Lunches' basement with billowing clouds of smoke, and equally billowing clouds of noise. They're like a pressure cooker version of the Velvet Underground, relentless and blank-eyed, hunched over their instruments in near-darkness as they generate their non-stop sonic boom.
But wait - maybe they're not so nihilistic after all. The vocalist leans out over the front of the stage - dodging the new air-con unit which Power Lunches have cunningly installed at head height - and there's a touch of droll humour about him, as he lurches and looms and drapes himself about the stage.
Behind that wall of sound, there's humour at work - a bit like The Birthday Party, I suppose, who didn't mind getting a liittle goofy even as they hammered you into submission with their visceral racket. Dressmaker, I think, are lurching unsteadily along that same line.
There's an old red telephone lashed to the mic stand, and a freaked-out
Robert Smithy guy standing behind it. He lets out a full-throttle vocal
caterwaul, and rips sheets of distort-o-noise from his guitar. Off to
one side, a drummer flails thunderously while exuding an air of zen-like
calm. Electronic indigestion bubbles and churns somewhere in the mix.
This collision of minimalist line-up and maximilist sound is Little
Death Machine. They're a kind of garage-industrial pop group, the
singer almost cartoonish as he yelps and freaks at the mic, and barks into
his telephone as if a double glazing salesman has pushed him over the edge. But
underneath it all, the rhythm is always precise. There's a structure
of heavy-duty drum-scaffolding that, for all the freak-outs, keeps Little
from falling over.
This is probably what Nine Inch Nails would sound like if they'd come up through the British indie scene, rather than the American rock circuit: endearingly eccentric, rather than scarily glowering. But getting the job done.
The Infinite Three look intent, and sound intense. Their clamour is all angles and slabs, like the component parts of a patio. The members of the band are taciturn and uncompromising, concentrating on their sonic construction project - you get the feeling they'd carry on regardless even if the entire audience upped and left.
As a matter of fact, some of the audience does up and leave. There's something about The Infinite Three's implacable racket that demands an all or nothing response. Get into it, or get out of here. They're not the kind of band that you can half-listen to, while standing at the back chatting to your mates.
Blocky chunks of guitar stack up, clanging and schlanging. Drums punctuate, no frills, unadorned. The Infinite Three don't go in for any Keith Moonisms. The rhythms are stripped, stark, dark. Nimble basslines dart in and out, flowing and tumbling like water over rocks, an almost incongruously sinuous element in a sound that's otherwise all about the geometry.
If you wanted to dance to The Infinite Three, you'd
have to dance to the basslines. The rest of it is a kind of prowling stomp,
the sound of an infantry regiment going deer stalking en masse.
Dan Knowler, infantry commander on vocals and guitar, is all twitches and tics and thousand-yard stares, as if he's been out in 'Nam a bit too long. He glares out from the stage as he rakes his guitar strings; he gets down on the floor and prods at a sampler while the bass and drums keep the rhythm circling. The Infinite Three's here-we-stand, we-can-do-no-other demeanour is slightly unsettling, and yet curiously compelling.
Good stuff, for sure. But I don't know if I'd let them loose on the hard landscaping.