Saturday July 11 2014
It's an economy version of Rome in
front of us tonight. Lead vocalist Jerome Reuter is
playing a solo set - just himself and an acoustic guitar.
But this minimalist set-up doesn't reduce the sepulchral grandiosity of the performance. Sepulchral grandiosity is what Jerome Reuter does. He probably cleans his teeth in the morning with sepulchral grandiosity.
Seated in front of a rapt crowd, he cuts a prosaic, unpretentious figure, and his affable asides between songs are disarmingly genial. But the songs themselves are imposing, sonorous things, rumbles of distant thunder that never quite escalate into a storm.
The vocals are an orotund croon, like a dark chocolate version of Leonard Cohen, while the guitar picks its way delicately through the sonic twilight. It's oddly compelling stuff, once you're at home with the notion that there isn't much in the way of variety in the performance. It never gets fast, it never gets loud, the songs never stray from the well-trodden path of neofolk necromancy. But the understated impact hits home.
Naevus bring on the heavy artillery. Well, they've got bass and drums in the line-up, which brew up a decidedly heavy-duty sturm und drang.
But the key element of the Naevus sound is Lloyd James' relentlessly-strummed acoustic guitar. His technique is to grab a chord by the scruff of its neck and strum it into submission, creating as he does so an unrelenting, hypnotic, post-rock groove, over which he declaims a sternly deadpan vocal. It's a very John Cale-ish experience, in a way: the impassive, saturnine vocal over the implacable forward push of the music.
At times, it all rises to
faintly alarming crescendos, as on 'Look To The State', which culminates
in a big chanted chorus of "One state, one state, one STATE' - at which
point you realise that without indulging in any conventional rock 'n' roll
histrionics, Naevus have created their own dramatic dynamic.
Now, it's headline time. And it's a bit odd, in a way, to find Kirlian Camera mixing it with the furrowed brows and implacable acoustics of the folk-industrial complex.
The band started out in early 80s Italy as a cheerfully upbeat electropop outfit, and only later adopted the theatrical melodramatics that gained them an audience among fans of martial apocalyptica.
it is that Kirlian Camera now hold the rather odd position of being the
electro-disco band it's OK
for neofolk fans to like.
It's a strange collision of band and audience. If it wasn't for their excursions into rather OTT visual dramatics - like the faux-scary intro, where the band line up at the front of the stage, faces hidden behind balaclavas, shining torches at the crowd like the secret police searching for subversives - Kirlian Camera would be an entirely commercial proposition. They'd fit in neatly between Goldfrapp and the Scissor Sisters, and their driving, cinematic, big-chorus electro anthems would be sending them bonkers at G-A-Y.
In this universe, however, Kirlian Camera have to content themselves with sending them bonkers at Electrowerkz. Here they go, rolling out their high-emotion floorslammers with much showbiz élan, via a curious, but effective, combination of synth, cello, and Flying V guitar.
The focus of everyone's attention, however, is vocalist Elena Alice Fossi. She's a reinvention of Lara Croft as a disco diva, vogueing and shape-throwing in an outfit that recalls Bryan Ferry's classic glam-military outfits (I don't think Bryan ever went in for the hotpants, mind).
I suspect for many of the energetically dancing crowd, Elena Alice is Kirlian Camera. At any rate, on the few songs when the band's founder, Angelo Bergamini, emerges from behind his keyboard and takes a gruffly downbeat lead vocal - still wearing his balaclava, as if he's only just arrived at the aprés-ski - he's treated with polite appreciation, rather than wild enthusiasm.
Everyone, I suspect, is rather relieved when Elena Alice
returns to the mic and we can get the party started again.
'Nightglory', a bangin' anthem which still contrives
to have a tug-at-your-heartstrings vocal woven around the kickdrum thunder,
pushes things towards a peak of dancefloor action.
But the number that really sends 'em (and, incidentally, the one that really should secure Kirlian Camera their own float at next year's Pride parade) is the band's Giorgio Moroder-esque take on Pink Floyd's 'Comfortably Numb' - a song also given a dance treatment by the Scissor Sisters, of course, a case of great disco divas dreaming alike if ever I saw one. I don't think the Scissor Sisters' version featured quite so much Flying V action, however.
Kirlian Camera take Pink Floyd for a gleeful whirl around the dancefloor in a perfect storm of weapons-grade disco cheese, and in that moment they're every Eurovision winner's victory lap rolled into one.
The incongruity of watching the industrio-neofolk massive unfurrow their brows long enough to get their groove on is a marvel in itself, although quite why a band making this music has found its fanbase with this audience is an enduring mystery. But what the hell, kids. Let's put our hands in the air for the disco apocalypse.