Despite having to overcome some backing track technical issues (a laptop had experienced the Windows blue screen of death, meaning Jon Boux and Erik Stein [LEFT] resorted instead to a CD being cued at the start of each song by the sound engineer in the gallery), Cult With No Name still put on an impressive show. This month the band release a DVD with their score for Robert Weine's expressionist silent classic film The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, and we got a sneak preview with Under The Dirt. I must have been expecting an instrumental because when the vocals came in I was a bit surprised but Stein's distinctive voice combined with the piano and humming synth backing created the sort of tonal quality that sounded like it should work well with the film. As a massive fan of Caligari and an ever growing fan of CWNN, that's one I'm looking forward to reviewing.
Their inspired piano/voice cover of Golden Brown still sounds remarkable and tonight demonstrated Stein has tempered slightly some of his hitherto more flamboyant vocal gymnastics without compromising his distinctive vocal qualities or dampening his delivery. Indeed, the listener is able to focus more on the compositions as a whole rather than occasionally be distracted by one aspect. Jon Boux's understated and confident keyboard work saw dextrous flurries and fills adding improvisation to the live renditions. These guys are a quality act. Thinking back to the aforementioned tech issues, if this was CWNN on an 'off-night' - I pity the competition.
Although they've been gigging for some years, this was my first live sampling of Cassette Elektrik [RIGHT] and a rewarding experience it was too. The looping cartoon visuals may have been trendy but were also undeniably appealing. It took me a couple of songs into the set for me to properly tune in to what they are up to, but it really started coming together on 28 Days with its Koyaanisqatsi-like speeded up visuals of factory robots building cars (and an 80s arcade kid playing Defender). On stage a Moog Prodigy helped ensure there were plenty of rasping analogue synth lines. I loved the sounds in general and some of the drum and percussion programming on some songs was extraordinarily good. Last track, which I think was called Line Dancer, with its groovy tune and large beats was loads of fun and a perfect end to an impacting set.
The Modern did their familiar electro-pop thing. Again, they didn't play my favourite (Industry) and again Emma Cooke was fiddling with her earpiece throughout (which is actually quite distracting!), nevertheless, she was noticeably on tip top vocal form tonight and the fans seemed satisfied.
Having notched up something like eight gigs now with Steve (Greenhaus) Bellamy adding his not inconsiderable production talents (and live keyboards) to Roi Robertson's compositions and dynamic live delivery, Mechanical Cabaret have now firmly established their exciting new live sound. This was a thoroughly entertaining whirl through a judicious selection of tracks from the last two albums including Ne Plus Ultra, a particularly excellent rendition of Tabloid Species and current single Careful Careless. It also included one of Robertson's well-chosen covers from his influences. This time around it was Desperate But Not Serious by Adam and The Ants. Robertson continues to delight in his unconventional walks into the audience and through the venue when singing. This is great fun to watch, especially when he gets up close and personally croons to those odd few at the bar who don't appear to be that familiar with Mechanical Cabaret. Yet another tick in the box marked 'Money well earned'.
Finally, the main attraction: one Karel Fialka [LEFT]. Headline? Karel Fialka? I admit that it isn't your average marquee name but Fialka's place at the top of tonight's strong line up is well-deserved. I first discovered him on the classic 1980 Virgin label compilation album Machines (a superb collection of new wave/early electronic pop including key names like PIL, OMD, XTC, Dalek I Love You, Gary Numan and others alongside Fialka's memorably playful The Eyes Have It).
Born in Bengal, India to a Czech father and Scottish mother, Fialka eventually relocated to Scotland, had a short career as a pop star, and has spend most of his recent years teaching recording and technology to college students in the Highlands. Surprisingly, Fialka had never actually performed in London before (mainly due to the fact that his tenure as a pop star was fairly short-lived and he never actually played many gigs full stop). Having emerged from years in music industry hibernation, this could have gone any number of ways, and an embarrassing nose-dive into anti-climatic disappointment would probably have drawn decent odds. However, much to everyone's delight, the opposite was actually the reality. An effortlessly cool, seasoned been-there-done-that demeanour, a couple of quality musician comrades, and a relaxed, almost nonchalant delivery (he casually chewed gum throughout the set).
'All the hits and more' sums it up simply. (The 'more' included a cover - the title of which annoyingly eludes me at present.) There's a touch of Bill Nelson's Do You Dream in Colour? (from the same era) about Fialka's songwriting. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it was still most familiar The Eyes Have It that made the biggest connection for me. I'd love to see Fialka again but if I never do get that pleasure I can be satisfied that I was around to see that tonight went, at least a small way, towards watching him receive the recognition he has well-deserved, and putting Fialka back where he belongs - in the spotlight. 8/10