You The Living
Thursday June 26 2014
'Strategies Against Architcture' it says on the flyer. Well, whoever designed the Windmill probably had a few strategies against architecture going on - the place looks like a 1960s youth club that's been rather optimistically rebranded as a pub.
Still, the beer
is good, and the bands look interesting, so let's partake of both and
see how the night shapes up.
Orka is one man amid an array of high tech gagetry and low tech acousticry. He's got a laptop, a primitive cello made out of a tree stake, a selection of effects, and what might be a dulcimer tucked away at the back (it's either that, or a half-dismantled piano).
If all this makes Orka sound
like he's going to be a festi-hippy, green-field-at-Glasters kind of artist
- well, he is, a bit. But he's got some strong tunes and a strong delivery,
too, and he's at his best when he's belting out a slice of catchy electropop
while his machinery churns around him.
The interludes where he fiddles with his kit tend to break up the flow, though, and his excursions into quasi-ambient noodling are nice, but low-impact.
In the end Orka comes across as a work
in progress - he hasn't quite worked out what he wants to do, or the most
effective way to do it. But we'll file him under 'potential'. Festival
bookers might want to take a look.
Semitone Autonomy has a name like a Buzzcocks song and a sound like every Skinny Puppy song playing at once. Mr Autonomy (or can we call him Semitone?) is another one-man act, this time of the minimalist laptoppy persuasion.
That's a format that comes with built-in limitations on stage, of course. One man standing behind a laptop, occasionally murmuring a rumble-grumble vocal into the mic while pre-recorded, post-industrial noisescapes unfurl around him might sound effective enough, but it's never going to be a great show (or indeed any kind of show). Thus it is that the Semitone Autonomy experience is a little underwhelming. He'd probably be a great programmer/producer for any industrial band that's looking for new members, mind.
It falls to Liquorice River to fill the first Prioper Band slot of the night. They're a disparate bunch: three downbeat blokes take care of the guitar/bass/drums business, kicking around a fuzzy indie racket while maintaining studiously deadpan expressions, while the vocalist writhes and gesticulates and enunciates the lyrics with mannered melodrama. He's very much of the Brett Anderson/Morrissey school of band frontmen, and there's more than a hint of Suede's cheerfully disreputable lowlifeism in his delivery.
But it's impossible to overlook the curious mismatch between the singer and the band. Liquorice River's frontman looks like he's been dragged through every after-hours bar in Soho without spilling a drop of his Campari and soda, while the lads look like they've just dropped in for a few lagers after the match.
the songs, half-defiant,
half-wistful, tough but tender indie anthems all, work rather well. If
Liquorice River look a little like a singer-plus-backing-musos
project rather than a band, they've got the musical ideas to haul
it all together.
Now it's time for our headliners, and indeed the proprietors of the night, You The Living.
So far tonight we've seen a couple of artists which, perhaps, haven't entirely nailed down their intentions or presentation. You The Living, on the other hand, have fixed that stuff to the wall with superglue. Far from being a work in progress, they're very much the finished article. They know what sort of noise they want to make, and they know how they're going to present it to us.
Two of the three people on stage are also in The Murder Act, but You The Living don't come across as anybody's side-project. There's a definite aesthetic - dare I even say it, a concept - at work here.
The sound is dark, clinging, like smoke from a bonfire. Guitar and synth mesh and blur; the vocals lurk in the midst of the music, rather than parading themselves out front.
But this sonic chiaroscuro is poked and prodded into shape by the stark angles of a drum machine beat, and some implacable, don't-mess bass.
There's a nice balance between the hazy-edges wash of the guitar/synth sound, and the starkly defined geometry of the rhythm.
The band keep it downbeat on
stage, but their understated presence has an air of toughness about it.
Why, they almost look like a gang - a gang that's probably more likely
to hang out at the library on late opening night than any grubby back alleys,
but a gang nevertheless.
You The Living describe themselves as a a shoegaze band, and I suppose they are - especially if your shoes happen to be black and pointy. But I think they're really operating in a similar area to HTRK and Tropic Of Cancer - that twilight zone of after-dark art with a machine beat. Now that sounds like a strategy to me.
Semitone Autonomy: Facebook