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Never Come BackLebanon Hanover
Soft Riot
Never Come Back @ Power Lunches, London
Sunday March 18 2012 

 

The basement room of this Dalston caff is so small there's hardly enough room to swing a baguette.

But nevertheless we're going to squeeze in a bit of rock 'n' roll tonight - because when it's finished serving sarnies Power Lunches converts itself into a minimalist music venue. First course is now being served: Soft Riot.

Soft Riot is one man, sitting in a web of wires that connect several black boxes full of electricity and a couple of spotlights (handily enough, given that Power Lunches provides no stage lighting at all). Out of all this, he generates throbbing electronic wobbles, sweeps and sideswipes, pulses and shudders.

Rhythms come and go, but this music isn't a slave to the beat, as much electronic stuff tends to be. It's almost ambient, approximately danceable, spooky and slo-mo, related in a way to the kind of stuff Cabaret Voltaire used to do before someone told them they'd invented house music, and they dutifully became a rather bland electro-dance outfit. What would've the Cabs sounded like if they hadn't gone down that road? Possibly not a million miles from Soft Riot, I'd venture.

Soft RiorInterestingly, Soft Riot mentions a bewildewring array of influences on his Facebook page -  The Jesus And Mary Chain, Donovan, Scott Walker and Yes to name an incongruous few. But the Cabs aren't on the list.

So it's entirely possible that where I think Soft Riot is coming from, and where Soft Riot thinks Soft Riot is coming from, are two very different things.

Personally, I can't quite hear the Yes influence (for this small mercy I am duly thankful), but as a fan of outré electronics I'm glad I can hear Soft Riot.

Big in Berlin, where they've been latterly based, and stars of Sunderland, where they're actually from, Lebanon Hanover are a relatively unknown quantity in London.

A deadpan duo of Laurissa Iceglass (army jacket, guitar) and William Maybelline (voluminous white blouse, bass) they contrive to be frosty and reserved while also allowing just the slightest sliver of knowing, glammy-camp humour into their art. I mean, c'mon, you've got to be at home to a certain sartorial wit to wear a voluminous white blouse in a cellar in London E8.

But whatever subtle humour might lurk beneath the frozen tundra of their demeanour, Lebanon Hanover play it entirely straight faced. Their songs are sparse, stripped-to-the-bones things, every bass note surrounded by acres of emptiness, every shard of guitar gleaming like broken glass in a car park. Behind everything, the splat and clatter of an old-school drum machine - although it's coming from a nu-school laptop. Lebanon Hanover might sound like they eat 80s coldwave for breakfast, but they're not about to bust out an 808. They're twenty-first century, too.

Lebanon Hanover rumble implacably through their set. The crowd sways as if mesmerised to the blatant Bauhausisms of 'Die World' - a title I'm not sure is intended to be read in German or English; either way it's very Lebanon Hanover.

Lebanon HanoverWilliam Maybelline dumps his bass and spends a song throwing mannered dance moves at us.

Laurissa Iceglass gets down on the floor and makes merry (for the Lebanon Hanover value of 'merry') with her effects pedals.

It's all bizarrely compelling, not so much a pop group as po-faced performance art. But there's that undertow of wit at work, too, if you've got the antennae to pick up on it. Like their song titles, Lebanon Hanover work both ways.

 

Lebanon Hanover: Website | Facebook

Soft Riot: Website | Facebook

Find a Lebanon Hanover album review here.

For more photos from this gig, find Lebanon Hanover by name here.

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