Into the Pit: 144: Seabound – Live at Purple Turtle – 22-July 2012

For the last of six different gigs during July – and my last for a few weeks – it was back to the Purple Turtle for the first time in a while, to see the return of the band that I believe are now the finest exponents of synthpop/futurepop anywhere. But first, before Seabound, there were the support acts, and I was there to see them all.

Global Citizen
Method Cell
Live @ Purple Turtle, London NW1
22 July 2012

With the weather having – at last – taken a turn for the better over the previous couple of days, it was notable that it was a sparse crowd at best for opening act Blume, an Italian band that as far as I’m aware have not played over here before. Here’s hoping they come back, though, as their coolly-measured synthpop was impressive, and certainly well-worth hearing if you are into this sort of thing.

Somehow, too, I don’t think I’d ever seen Method Cell live prior to this show, despite them being on the bill at a number of gigs I’ve been to up and down the country over the past few years. More fool me, obviously, as they were pretty good. A two-piece who make industrial dancefloor music with actual melodies, and hooks that many bigger bands can’t or won’t do. While closer Push is clearly their best song (a punchy, pulsating anthem-in-waiting), brand new song The Fallacy took the tempo down a bit to great effect, making the beats heavier and the atmosphere darker.

The last time that I saw Global Citizen, they were a striking, attention-grabbing band. Here, however – apparently hindered by a PA that plainly wasn’t close to being loud enough – they were something of a shadow of that, with a stripped down show that lost the intriguing outfits, too, and generally all sounding rather flat. One day I’ll get to catch the whole show, from start to finish.

A six-year or so gap – and counting, Speak in Storms isn’t here yet – would suggest to the casual observer that Seabound have been quiet for some time. This show was amongst their first shows in probably three years or so, and recent compilation track The Escape (not aired tonight) was their first new material since the last album. But in that time, Frank Spinath at least has kept himself busy, with two Edge of Dawn albums, a Ghost & Writer album and various guest appearances elsewhere. But even with those other projects, the quality level has remained high, and as Edge of Dawn in particular gained some considerable success within the scene as their extraordinary second album broke through, I couldn’t help beginning to wonder whether Seabound would ever return.

Seabound setlist:
For Life
Soul Diver
Poisonous Friend
Avalost (Vocal Version)
Scorch The Ground
Nothing But Love
Hooked (Radical)

Encore 1:
Watching Over You

Encore 2:

Encore 3:

So I was, needless to say, absolutely overjoyed to see this gig announced, and the new album was only confirmed a day or two prior to this: so I was wondering quite what we would get. Would it be a host of new stuff, or a run through their history, touching on the new? The latter was more like it, and Seabound treated us to three new songs, the first of which (For Life) was the opener. The band just appeared on stage, and took off straight into a slow-burn that nonetheless had some nice touches, with Frank unleashing just the odd moment of bite in his vocals. Better were the other two tracks – which seemed more fully formed. Contraband was a bitter, seething track, containing a chorus that was a burst of barely-restrained rage, and suggests that the new album will perhaps pick up where Double-Crosser left off.

Best of all, though, was Nothing But Love, an extraordinary, euphoric song like nothing Seabound have ever done before. Apparently shorn of the usual darkness, instead beams of bright light filter through the song and maybe, just maybe, this is the best song Seabound have ever written.

Which is some feat, amongst a set that rammed home just why Seabound are regarded so highly. There was material from each of their three albums, and covered both the more uptempo, dancefloor-bound material and some of their glorious ballads. The latter included a lovely, unexpected Soul Diver and what was actually a request (!), the heartbreaking beauty of Avalost.

It is now remarkably ten years or more since I first heard Seabound, and frankly none of their songs have dated a day, which in a fickle scene, shows just how consistent they’ve been. Many of their peers have long-since fallen by the wayside, while here they proved they still have it. And as the strains of their very first single, Hooked, ended, there was no way they would be allowed to leave without an encore. They did come back, for a remarkable three encores that brought no more new songs, but did cover off most of the other old songs I wanted to hear (aside from, once again, Transformer. One of these days I’ll hear it played…), including another unexpected song, to close, with the edgy, doomed obsession of Castaway, one of those songs that gets under the skin from the first listen.

But more than anything – despite the smaller than I would have expected attendance – Seabound are back, and are picking up where they left off. Maybe they needed the time off, to recharge and get away from a while from the deeply intense emotions that the songs revel in. The new album sounds like it will have every bit of the quality and intensity of the previous work, and for that alone, we need Seabound back. Naked, undisguised emotion other than hate in this scene is no bad thing, and music this good should never go out of fashion.

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