What promised to be a great night of white noise was mired by sound troubles Getintothis’ Stuart Ross tried to make the best of an unexpected situation.
Friday night at the East Village Arts Club and looking down the bill there were two bands we knew a lot about: headliners Cold Cave and Liverpool’s Double Echo.
There were two we are only just starting to get to grips with: Salem Rages and Natural Assembly.
Spirits were high as we wandered upstairs, but from the off there was something amiss. Getintothis has been to enough gigs in our time to know that you can’t always expect a great sound. However, given the impressive set up in the new East Village Arts Club you would expect a reasonable degree of quality.
The night’s opening act, Salem Rages, a four-piece playing some raucous Bossanova-era Pixies-influenced tunes, kicked off at an ear splitting volume to the grand sum of six people in a room that could comfortably accommodate about several hundred.
Energy, vitality and decadent punk bludgeoning were all thrown in the mix, yet anything of note which required a hint of subtlety – like what the singer was actually intoning – were completely lost in the mix. Unfortunately, this was to be the theme of the night.
Second up were Double Echo, in possession of a more electronic vibe in the vein of Depeche Mode and New Order with lashings of reverb, delay and chorus in play. Thankfully their choice of electronic drum programming meant that the rhythm could cut through the wash of sound to make for a more enjoyable listen.
Again though, vocals were nowhere to be heard. Their lips were moving but the sounds being formed remained a mystery. Given that three of the four bands on the bill were playing from the electronic end of the spectrum, the lack of sound quality was a real handicap. With a rock band you can get away with a bit of rawness and crudity, but if you have performers whose music is reliant on the quality of their carefully crafted beeps and whirs, not to mention the content of their lyrics, then you have less leeway.
Up next to do battle with the sound system were Natural Assembly. As the number of personnel decreased, just vocals and synths this time, so the aural horror increased.
The quality and competence of the programming and sampling cannot be faulted. Vocally however, it sounded like someone’s donkey had fallen down the well. As baffling as they were brief, after what seemed an age of setting up they were off scowling into the wings.
Finally Cold Cave took the stage and given the precedent set by the questionable sound quality, great things were not expected. Main man Wesley Eisold laid on an enthusiastic performance, and it certainly looked impressive with some good back projection, but when the vocals are buried so deep in the mix and you can’t understand what he is saying when he talks between songs then the whole enterprise struggles.
As a result, fair assessment of those involved wasn’t really possible. What we can say is that this particular brand of electronica (think Human League and Cabaret Voltaire) would appear to be something of a musical cul de sac. If you’re a fan of it then you’re in safe hands, but you’re looking for something that pushes the boundaries then look elsewhere.
Picture by Getintothis’ Heather Shawcross.
Further reading on Getintothis:
Veronica Falls, Brilliant Colors, Double Echo, Mean Jean: The Kazimier, Liverpool
FestEVOL part one review inc. Salem Rages
Wet Nuns, Salem Rages, Stereo Virgins: The Kazimier, Liverpool