Nearly halfway through 2019, and the gigs keep on coming. After a week off (I was away in Greece), there were three shows back-to-back as we entered the second week of June. Two of those shows were relatively big, high-profile events – the return of Bikini Kill at Brixton on Monday, and then the return of Stereolab on Wednesday. Both, if you will, “heritage acts” – returning after a long hiatus each and not playing any new songs (not that there was any need for either to do so). But that said, both were excellent shows in very different ways.
/Click Click/006/Statiqbloom/Spit Mask
/The Glove That Fits/E9
The show inbetween was very, very different. Out in the far corners of Hackney – indeed so far down Morning Lane that it was within a grimy industrial area in Homerton, not somewhere I’d have fancied spending too much time hanging around in otherwise. Despite the location, it wasn’t a bad space, the gig in a low-ceilinged basement that for the photographer in mine was something of a challenge (a few red bulbs in the corners, and that was it). So, for the first time ever when I’ve had a photo pass, my trusty Canon 7D with 50mm f/1.4 lens was put aside, and I used my Google Pixel 3 XL on Night Sight mode – and those pictures are here, more to illustrate this review than anything else.
Sadly illness meant that Nation Unrest were unable to perform, but the one well member of the group instead did a DJ set before the bands, full of banging industrial both old and new, and I’ll certainly be looking out for them again in the future.
After what appeared to be a few sound issues, the set from Spit Mask – particularly in a venue as small as this, with little or no divide between the artist and the audience – was like standing in the heart of a storm, it was such a visceral performance. My notes at the time described their sound as “Land of Rape and Honey-era Ministry crossed with Hands-esque industrial noise”, which needless to say meant that this was an utterly remorseless, powerful set. The high-octane pace and punk-edged vocals, too, perhaps give a nod to the work of Youth Code, but there is no doubt that this is a group with their own concept. Reports from their WGT set days before this suggested quite the show there (including a dominatrix and her gimp performing onstage), and while the lyrics weren’t particularly decipherable during our show, the gloriously unsubtle T-shirt onsale proclaiming “DEATH TO FALSE BDSM” might give you a hint. Listening to their EP Swallow is, like the live performance, a chastening experience, and with a new album coming on aufnahme + wiedergabe soon, they aren’t done with us yet.
I must confess that even having had a few weeks listening to their new release Asphyxia prior to the show, I still wasn’t totally sold on Statiqbloom. I’m well aware that across the “scene”, there has been a heck of a buzz about them for a while now, one that I’d felt a bit left out of, as if I was the only one not “getting it”. Sure, it was good, but did we really need another band that had been listening to an awful lot of Skinny Puppy, :wumpscut: and other harsher industrial? It turned out that I needed to have seen them live.
This was a second set of the evening that was very much full force. Denman very much stays in the shadows on synths, but Fade was everywhere, using every part of the room as he tore into every song. The aggression of the songs in the live environment gives them a whole new dimension, frankly, and listening to Asphyxia since has given me a whole new perspective. There was more to it than I had realised – particularly his metal vocal stylings that have much more range than I first thought.
Much like Spit Mask, sure, the sound could have been better, but there’s not a lot that can be done in a small basement venue that probably isn’t an ideal shape for live music, but in these times where venues are now very much at a premium (I’ve heard of a number of cases lately where promoters would have loved to have moved a show to a bigger venue, but couldn’t as there were no available venues to move to), bands, promoters and punters have to take what they can get. That, and with the punishing nature of both sets, it was something of a privilege to be watching them within touching distance, as that doesn’t often happen these days, and it only heightened the impact. A show that left me rethinking my own views – just as a great show should.