For the last couple of years, one Saturday around this time of year has seen me head to Electrowerkz for the latest London edition of the BEAT:CANCER shows – and indeed take photos of the bands, and write about them too.
This third year – and the last for a while, as B:C goes on a well-deserved gig break for a little while – was no exception, although plans were complicated by realising two days before that a documentary I’d been waiting to see for about four years, Transmissions After Zero (a film about the 90s band Brainiac) was on that same evening.
So, on what was quite frankly an awful, wet evening, I went over to Dalston, saw the film (more on that in the coming days), then dashed over to Angel and Electrowerkz, with the full expectation that I’d have missed a number of bands. Except…it didn’t quite work out like that, as a whole world of issues earlier in the day compounded to make things very late indeed. There wasn’t a lot the organisers could do, really, but along with less space than usual, and a good-sized crowd, things got extremely cosy at points, that was for sure.
All photos can be found in their original forms – with more – on Flickr.
Even so, I still missed opening band Drakenwerks. I rather liked the next band Vain Machine. Signed to Analogue Trash in Manchester – but actually from some distance away, in Los Angeles, it was obvious from the start of their set that they owe a lot to European EBM and industrial. The sharp-edged leads are pure old-school EBM, there is a menace to the rhythms, and interestingly – and I wasn’t expecting it, judging on the intro – the vocals are melodic and catchy. I liked this a lot and will be looking out for upcoming material.
Talking of new releases, Beinaheleidenschaftsgegenstand released their new album Monsters on the day of the show – after a succession of shorter releases – and their uncompromising sound remains intact. What is broadly (pitch-)dark ambient does have more to it than just electronic drones, mind, with ultra-treated bass and the occasional other element (or battered metal barrels), but also the vocals from Tiffanie. Take the song Stalker, which appears to be comments made by men to women and makes for unsettling listening, and had the vocals had better volume (and Bein-e were not the only band affected), more would have heard more of this – frankly, they deserved better. One familiar appearance was their traditional set-closer, the take on the Current 93 track Falling Back In Fields Of Rape, which seeing as it deals with the horrors of an unnamed war, seemed appropriate to be played on the second weekend of November.
That Bein-e are rather different from their peers, particularly on this bill, was only made the clearer by their position on the bill between Vain Machine and fast-rising Sheffield duo Promenade Cinema. This group topped the /amodelofcontrol.com /Countdown/2018/Albums with their exceptional debut Living Ghosts, and they made their first steps on from that release just recently, with the release of single The Arch House on Hallowe’en, and the announcement of second album Exit Guides to come in the New Year.
The Arch House
The Quiet Silently Wait
Passions in the Back Room(Dorian lead)
It wasn’t surprising, then, to see them moving on live, too, with new visuals and a smattering of new songs in a set that absolutely flew by. Consisting of seven songs, it was formed of four existing songs – I would say the best four on Living Ghosts, of which the dramatic The Quiet Silently Wait and stellar single Spotlight remain utterly exquisite synthpop gems – and three new ones.
These new songs were really interesting. The Arch House is already becoming familiar, and the measured, steady beat surges into synth strings and a sweeping, emotional chorus that appears to use a metaphor of a haunted house for mental health issues. The other two songs – and we were hearing these for the first time – took a different tack. Cold Fashion was the one thing the duo haven’t done thus far – a synthpop dancefloor banger – and we can now consider that niche filled.
The final new track was perhaps the best of the lot. Passions in the Back Room saw Dorian take lead vocals – although Emma was anything but sidelined, and delivered the impassioned, powerful chorus – and the result was, on first listen at least, Promenade Cinema’s best song yet. Consider me fully prepared for the second album, and the release of it in 2020 can’t come soon enough.
My only complaint? Yet again, the vocals were too low. Interestingly – and it may have been a coincidence, at least I hope so – the only two groups affected by poor vocal levels were the two fronted by women. It should be noted that the sound was down to the venue, not the organisers of BEAT:CANCER.
I can’t say that two of the next three bands were really my bag. Greek aggrotech act Cygnosic were perfectly competent, but I’ve long since tired of the style of music they play – and rather the same applied to C-Lekktor. A good proportion of the crowd went nuts for them, though, so clearly I was out of step with many of my fellow gig-goers that night.
The band that played in between these two, though, were fascinating. Somehow, I’ve never seen Nature of Wires live before, and indeed they are a band I’ve not really had the opportunity to listen to them at all before, and it turns out this is something I need to rectify. Classic rave piano, thumping beats, striking vocals, and that was just opener Harry’s House, from this group who have been around for, apparently, over three decades but have had a fair amount of downtime along the way. There is certainly more than a bit of a nod to eighties electronic music in their sound, but they are clearly also using twenty-first-century technology, too, which results in a punchy sound – that even in the sometimes-patchy black hole of live sound that Electrowerkz can be, sounded very impressive indeed.
The headliners iVardensphere ended up taking the stage well beyond 0100 – around two hours behind schedule after the issues earlier – and then equipment failure caused yet more delays, and some evident frustration. That all seemed forgotten when they finally got going, mind – even with the small stage meaning that the six-piece was rather crammed in! I’ve now seen iVardensphere six times over the past eight years – since I first saw them back at Kinetik in Montreal (/Memory of a Festival/011.1), and in some respects, they are still the same tribal powerhouse that they were then. But in the meantime, Scott Fox and his band have evolved the sound considerably, adding more vocals (usually but not always courtesy of Jamie from ESA, now a full-time member) and looking at different styles. One of the great things about this evolution is that each iV show seems to be very different, but none the less enjoyable, and what I saw of this show certainly was.
My main problem was that I was absolutely exhausted – apparently, at 41 years old, I now struggle to make it through to 0200 in the morning, never mind any later – so I cut my losses and headed home. Sadly this also meant that I missed Iszoloscope, too, but sometimes I have to think about sleep first!
Mark and the team that run the BEAT:CANCER shows – and it is a team, impressively organised and always done in a way that works as best as it can – deserve a lot of credit for their work. They’ve tirelessly run events, other fundraisers, compilations and various other items of merch, and pour pretty much everything back into the fundraising, and as a result, they’ve raised substantial sums for their stated aim. Our scene can sometimes be one that pours problems on itself, but here, this is an example of what can happen when everyone comes together and does something good.
Sure, I don’t like every band that I see at these shows – frankly, I’m not sure anyone does, really, as it’s such a wide range – but they are always a must-see in my calendar these days, and I’m going to miss it next year as the team take a break. They’ve certainly earned it.