At a time of year when most promoters and venues ratchet up the door and drinks price, this evening didn’t just offer up three quality bands, but went on to be the last Young, Twisted and Black club of the year; and something of a friends of Flag Promotions’ Christmas party – and all for FREE. It is a fine example of why Flag won dsoaudio’s Best Promoter in our recent 2011 Awards.
To launch the merriment were Das Flüff [Photo: left]. Having now heard them live, I have to say that Das Flüff is misleading name. They’d be well-advised to drop it ASAP and get something that does merit to their rich and distinctive combination of influences; for they could quickly rise to wider exposure. In the impossibly difficult world of music, a band with their qualities should take every opportunity to capitalise on their strengths. Maybe they’re just in it for some fun though.
There was certainly nothing po-faced about their delivery, and the performance on the money. Welcoming recent addition Alessandro Alexira Aiello to laptop and synth, this appealing three-piece make an immediate and lasting impression. Aiello replacing a previous member for which there is not (apparently) much love lost. Dawn Lintern on lead vocals has a terrific voice. With touches of Siouxsie Sioux and Alison Goldfrapp in there she’s all the natural voice talent one could ask for to stand apart from the crowd. Steve May (mainly) on guitar looks almost as if he has been recruited from full time employment with a 50s American rock 'n' roll act, like Das Flüff is his dirty secret or something. Whatever the truth of it, he sounds cool and looks cool, adding a further visual dimension.
Then, there’s the music. Which is varied, sounding like they are still searching for a consistent sound, but could simply be a resolutely diverse one. Variety is the key here and one suspects that each of the members is bringing different inspiration to the table and that the only rule is: that there are no rules. If you were to sample any individual song in isolation you would have a misleading perception of Das Flüff (just typing that again feels wrong!). Even after hearing a half-hour set, it’s hard to pin down. The band themselves call it 'electro sleeze pop'. If you’ve yet to hear them, go take a peak at the promos on their website (dasfluff.com). Chances are you'll be gagging to see them live too.
Opening with a couple of old (and still robust) numbers Only One and Slave sets out to anyone unfamiliar with Global Citizen [Photo: right] their stylistic approach firmly. Don’t Make It Slow a characteristic mid-tempo song was next, followed by the single Early Morning Star – which somehow seems to be a performance favourite with master of ceremonies Rich ‘September’ Mills who, curiously, wasn't sporting his usually trademark jagged black face make up tonight (but was only marginally less scary as a consequence!).
New song, Ain’t Over Yet was next and shows an extension of much of last year’s Nil By Mouth (which nabbed the 2011 dsoaudio Award for Best Album) - which is tantalising. Last is floor stomper Majesty a song that only truly comes into its own live, is another example of how Global Citizen can sometimes even feel like a different band between their studio and live work. With so many electronic-based bands sounding too much like their recordings (a tad pointless) it’s satisfying then to hear a band like Global Citizen perform a track like this with such gusto that what, for me, is merely an also-ran in its recorded form, transforms live into a beast with real impact.
Simon Leonard and David Baker, aka Komputer [Photo: left], are known all over the globe. A fan from America was standing alongside me at the Spitalfields gigs in 2002 and at a recent night out with friends in Japan when Komputer’s World of Tomorrow came on the sound system it rapidly triggered a conversation about their evolution from the wonderful I Start Counting, through the quirky Fortran 5, and their current incarnation (all via Mute). Yet they remain one of the most niche bands I know.
Their fans are passionate if thinly spread. Few bands with a track record of their quality would even be able to play a gig as small as tonight’s venue (the back of a pub in North London) let alone do without much of a mainstream fanfare. Therein lays the dichotomy for fans. It is glorious that we can go and see a band that we love so much in a venue so perfectly small (with a PA system punching well above its weight). Yet, simultaneously, we feel a significant injustice exists that they are able to play such a modest venue.
But the payoff for those in attendance is a gem of a night. A sometimes ramshackle ramble (but, hey, that’s Komputer for you) through their significant back catalogue, purportedly acting as a ‘launch’ night for Konnecting, a Mute compilation of ISC, F5 and K songs acting as an introductory sampling of their work. But it’s possible that promoters Flag had simply managed to get these two reluctant stars off their sofas and back onto the stage again and wanted to deploy some enticing billing.
Leonard appeared as if someone had only just woken him up 30 seconds before pushing him on stage. He struggled to keep time, couldn’t operate his vocoder properly and didn’t always sing all the lyrics. Baker only occasionally looked over, possibly just to check Leonard was still actually there. He was, but a cold seemed to be hampering his concentration, as he kept having to blow his nose. Factor in the need for frequent sips of beer and it’s no wonder he wasn’t the sharpest performer on stage tonight. It could be argued that this was to the detriment of the technical quality of the songs. But none of that really matters, because the emotions behind the original compositions transcends all of that, and they had the devoted faithful hanging on their every unpredictable next note soon after stepping onto the stage
With a set that closely followed (exactly?) the one they did at the Mute Short Circuit event last May, they opened with a new Komputer track Minimum. Its matter-of-fact confessional lyrics stating: "When I'm asked to do all that I can, I do the minimum!". You have to admire their frankness ;-). The much performed live (but never quite the same twice) Looking Down on London, from the debut Komputer album from 1998, cropped up next and its many brief moments of magic shone through the 'mimimal' delivery. The haunting Letters To A Friend, an I Start Counting single from 1984, and the very first record that Baker and Leonard released as a duo also appeared. I've always loved this song since buying the 7" more than a quarter of a century ago and, like much of I Start Counting's finest, its lost none of it melancholic wonder down the years. I was well-served tonight and felt particularly lucky, many of my personal favourites by their three incarnations were getting an airing. The Fortran 5 single (and somewhat atypical) Heart On The Line was a real treat, here with Leonard's flaky vocoder work substituting for the original dual female vocals. Nevertheless, the pleasure was undiminished.
after a later-than-scheduled start, I couldn't stay until the very end
so missed some of the set. Even so, it was a terrific end to a
somewhat terrific year. Goodbye 2011, we will have very fond memories
of you. 8/10
Postscript: Turns out that Simon Leonard was indeed ill when he played the gig. So all credit to him for going ahead with the show rather than cancel.
Live footage on dsoaudio's YouTube Channel