I imagine venue owners are mostly concerned about pulling numbers, so taking a punt on bands that aren’t as established as well-known ‘crowd pullers’ can be risky and the many crowds really are a discerning lot, rarely just going to a particular venue just to see what is there.
I am beginning to think that I will start going to the Liberty Social (Melbourne Aus) on a Friday night to see what they have going on because, like the Crystal Ballroom of the 1980’s, it is really becoming a hub for hearing new music and challenging artists.
Last Friday the launch of Forces’ self-titled new record, released through Siberia Records is no exception. Alex Akers and Tom Henderson are fast building a reputation for not only making great music but also putting on a night that showcases new artists that are really worth keeping an eye on, especially in and around the dark indie/electronic subculture.
The first act in the evening’s proceedings were White Hex, a group I initially heard on a Nihilistic Orb’s sampler and a group that I was very keen to see. I enjoy their blend of atmospheric guitars with surf rock overtones and driving bass. Having only heard a small selection of their work I was surprised to see that they are in fact a two-piece, filling out their sound with a wide selection of pedals and a drum machine.
Another aspect of their sound I was interested to note was that Tara Green, vocalist and bass player, strummed her instrument at ‘half capacity’. That’s right people, only two strings on that particular machine, yet her bass lines did not sound limited by this reduction. Having played bass guitar for some years, I feel this says more about her talent and less about the instrument itself.
Tara’s voice is clear and well measured, whilst having a deep and smoky quality to it I enjoyed, along with both Tara and the guitarist Jimi Kritzler’s unassuming stage show; Jimi looked like a farmhand let loose on a guitar, a western twang ingratiating itself into his sound. The music had a slow and dragging quality to it which was more hypnotic than monotonous. I was pleased to hear that the track ‘Holiday’ was even better live than its recorded counterpart.
Nun were also much more exciting live than on their recordings, which are really hard to get hold of. I was very sad to see no release from them on the merch desk. Nun have a dissident sound that reminds me of early post-punk acts, especially those pioneers that tried to remove more of the human qualities of music being produced at the time like Throbbing Gristle and Cabaret Voltaire, with some concerted hat tipping to the latter, with repetitive found sounds and samples being aired between tracks.
The best comparison of their sound would be the love child of Crystal Castles and a dalek. Jenny Branagan manipulates her voice to sounds entirely robotic and crouched on the stage like a caged animal, a lone prowler in front of four guys slaving over a series of samplers and a Korg synth that filled out their sound.
As their set progressed their sound moved from the mechanical harshness of post-punk influence to a slightly funkier no-wave feel but the difference was subtle and I was very pleased to hear their track ‘Cronenburg’ during the course of their set. All in all it was a building cacophony that made you jiggle.
I didn’t quite know what to expect from Kangaroo Skull’s stage show. Their name has popped up a few times but I had not heard any of their tracks prior to that evening. I had the briefest of interaction with a girl in the crowd that described them as ‘Whoa. Whoa. Whoa.’ -But I was suspicious of her opinion as she was wearing sunglasses inside a club. In fact, she was not the only person doing so and if I ever get to see Kangaroo Skull again, I will weather any derision and bring my own sunglasses.
They were blinding. No, seriously. I could not see a fucking thing thanks to the two strobe lights they had set up behind each of the band members (Rohan Rebeiro and Ben Andrews of My Disco). These strobes fired alternatively, so that the searing white light was utterly relentless.
The music itself was beyond minimalist, it felt like there were only beats and no melody at all apart from the occasional high frequency noises chiming in over the top, which really made me think about what you actually need to make music. The intensity of the situation made me feel sickened and disoriented and pushed me to the physical limit of what I could actually stand to be in the same room with.
They were totally fucked, but in the most excellent and thought provoking fashion. Not everyone’s cup of tea, obviously. But if you want to be challenged and pushed, I would say that these guys are a must-see.
Forces set was a welcome relief and I was looking forward to seeing them perform again, as my first introduction to this band was at a live gig and I feel that their music is at its best through performance.
Fresh from touring Tokyo and some of the east coast, Alex and Tom presented a honed and professional offering that night. Their minimal stage show is electric to watch, and I still think that Tom looks like he is auditioning to be a member of EMF.
It’s the round Lennon-style glasses that were just so damn popular in the 90’s and coupled with the bomber jacket favored by the skinhead subculture and white shorts, there was quite a Look going on.
Their sound (if you have not heard it yet, in which case, what have you been doing with your life?) recalls early EBM, pulsating and sparse. Screams and catcalls ring out from the start of ‘World In Focus’, the first track released from their self-titled effort; a cold and brutal dramatization as pink, purple and blue lasers slice through the air.
Alex, in a Nihilistic Orbs t-shirt, ditched the microphone stand, moved out towards the crowd, offering more engagement with the crowd than when I previously saw them, indicating a growing confidence in their persona and performance, which is good to see.
Sadly, I could not understand Alex’s between song banter due to the heavy reverb on his microphone but if there has to be a flaw in your performance, it is better to be something which matters so little, rather than anything else.
What was quite interesting to note is that a new form of dancing was being developed in the front row of the gig. The movement requires you to be bent forward, arms hanging loose with your back arched and swaying. All in all, there was a faithful recreation of the album’s tracks but live they really do have so much more impact. Forces finished up their set on a song that made you want to stomp the floor in a primal charge in response.
In between all of these sets, the two members of HTRK, Nigel and Jonnine did an excellent job of keeping the vibe going, yet not detracting from the bands and remaining fairly innocuous. Overall the evening was definitely an experience. I give it five Whoa’s out of five.
Press Gang hosts a radio show on an long running Australian community radio station. She likes longs walks along the beach, nights in front of the fire and telling you what you should think about music**
**Probably just that last one.
Photography by Aris Cologon- Press Gang