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Clan Of Xymox
Violet Stigmata
Act NoirAct Noir

Slimelight, London
Saturday June 23 2007

 

Oh, no. There's a band on stage doing intricate muso-wibble. This is Act Noir, who are allegedly a goth band, although to me they seem curiously like a bunch of jazzers who, for reasons known only to themselves, have embarked on a gothic side project. Eyes squint at fretboards, heads nod along. Despite the regulation black threads and the singer's suitably deep 'n' dramatic vocals, the overall sound recalls jazz-fusion outfits like Weather Report and Spyro Gyra.

I suppose, if nothing else, Act Noir demonstrate that it's possible to gothicize any musical style - all it takes is a few black T-shirts and a deep voice and you're there. The 69 Eyes did it with glam rock, so why shouldn't Act Noir do it with jazz-rock? But in this case, once you've dutifully acknowledged that the band are Really Good Musicians, the uncomfortable fact is that there are no visceral thrills on offer. The crowd, sparse though it is at this early point in the evening, treats Act Noir with polite caution. I'm a little more decisive - I go to the bar.

Violet Stigmata are, thankfully, rather more of an upfront and in yer face proposition. In spite of their rather OTT uber-gawthick name, which might lead the unwary to believe that we're in for a veritable festival of hand-staple-foreheadisms, the band have clearly been necking the punk rock pills. Fired by crazed energy, they thunder into a set of rumbustious anthems, the singer standing as implacably as a wall centre stage, bellowing the vocals as if hailing ships at sea, while, rather endearingly, spreading his hands as if to say 'This isn't my fault!' as the band's musical storm clouds collide around his head.

Violet StigmataThere's a sense that Violet Stigmata are clinging to a careering go-cart, as their music hurtles them towards the hairpin bend of oblivion. It's as if they never really intended their music to have this kind of heady punkzoid rush - hey, we're supposed to be a goth band! We gave ourselves a really, really gothic name! - but, once they've shoved it off, that go-cart's just gotta hurtle. The contrast between Act Noir's studied musicianship and this splendidly gonzoid performance couldn't be sharper. And I'm with the gonzoid gang every time.

Gonzoid is not a word you could apply to Clan Of Xymox. This band is nothing if not measured in its approach. No careering go-carts here, no screeching tyres on the hairpin bend. Xymox pilot their chariot with a sure touch and a steady eye on the road ahead, guitarist and vocalist Ronny Moorings as impassively controlled as a chauffeur in a Rolls. In a way, I rather wish they would cut loose and get a little crazy sometimes, but Xymox just don't do that. Their music is precise and economical, not a guitar note or keyboard flourish out of place.

This, of course, is what makes it work: there are no show-off demonstrations of muso-prowess here, although I'm sure the band could wibble with the best of 'em if they had a mind to do so. Xymox favour a confident stride through their neatly-trimmed musical park, like landscape gardeners checking on the progress of their trees.

Some of those trees, it must be said, are getting fairly mature now. Songs such as 'Louise' and the evergreen 'A Day' date back to the early days of the band, over 20 years ago now. No matter how many albums Xymox Clan Of Xymoxrelease, no matter how much new material they might add to their repertoire, these old classics still have pride of place in the set. Of the more recent material, the band's cover of Bowie's 'Heroes' rumbles magesterially, while 'Weak In My Knees' and 'Cold Damp Day' cut the mustard far better than you'd perhaps imagine, given their somewhat underwhelming titles. In short, Clan Of Xymox deliver what they always deliver: a neatly crafted set of atmospheric rock-noir, and if it's a little short on wild drama, at least it's long on solid virtues.

 

 

Essential links:

Clan Of Xymox:: Website | MySpace
Violet Stigmata: Website | MySpace
Act Noir: Website | MySpace

For more photos from this gig,
find the bands by name here.

 

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