Leech Woman were tonight's headline act but fatigue and Interlock intervened, forcing me to bail out early, but it was still a worthwhile outing. A gig to support the launch of the second Armalyte Industries compilation, Defcon 2, Action Directe were (apart from Leech Woman) the other main reason for turning out. Many good things having been read about them online and my first opportunity to report back if that praise is worthy. The take home message is a "yes".
Named after a French extreme left terrorist group, Action Directe push their politics without apology. Their sound has been called many different things probably because AD do not let one style dominate. Those looking for something to give them direction can start with punk industrial and find their own way from there. Despite an immediate impact, and their preceding reputation, AD fund it hard initially to draw people down to the dance floor. The set included their intruiging cover of Sting's Russians, but their agenda ensured that this wasn't quite the painful experience it could have been, although as the only song with a conventional mainstream vocal line it showed up the singer's talent shortcomings only too well. However, as the set progressed, I found myself being won over. The least that can be said about Action Directe is that they don't sound like anyone else on the scene - and that's no mean achievement in itself.
The Sepia had previously left me pretty cold, but my journalistic conscience reminded me of my duty to you dear reader, and so I dutifully took up a vantage point to see the second act. It took mere seconds to see that The Sepia have come along some way since I last saw them. (It's nice to be rewarded for open-mindedness!) Their sound honed around the darker electronic core and with the doom-laden vocals low in the mix, this made making out the compositions themelves much easier and allowed us to focus on the music itself rather than some up front egotist.
This egalitarian approach was demonstrated early on with three of the four members rocking down the front, side by side with their guitars and guitar synths. The gothic overtones of the past were firmly behind them tonight, replaced instead by breakbeat programming and almost Orbitalesque dance music.
Interlock were next on stage and, as stated above, by now I was flagging badly. I thought I'd just let Interlock do their thing for half an hour and be rewarded by a fine Leech Woman set. But a glance at the running order told me that the headliners wouldn't be on for the best part of an hour. Interlock were an odd bunch. Presenting growling menace as their preferred mode of delivery, yet (like many folk on this scene) were clearly nowhere near as mean as they made out. This was obvious when their sound engineer screwed up their backing track (neither the band nor the audience could hear it) forcing Interlock to abort the start more than once. Probably a mixture of anger and nervousness prompted their lead female vocalist to start 'chatting' to the crowd gathered at their feet. This instantly blew away all semblance of threat and the image was shot for good.
What followed was grungy, alt-rock guitar babbling that convinced me that I could not hang on for another forty five minutes waiting for Leech Woman to appear. I reluctantly made my early departure. Still, I'd wager that Leech Woman put on as good a show as always and I hope all bands managed to shift some merchandise on the night. The Armalyte crew and all their artists are to be praised for their efforts.
First Armalyte Industries night: Underworld, London - 3 February, 2001
Armalyte Industries compilations