Seabound/RBN/Auto Aggression

Purple Turtle, London - 26 June 2009

"The most fun I've had with Seabound live"

Having concluded that Auto Aggression's second album Artefacts was one of the best releases of 2007, I'd been waiting patiently since to see them live. Suggestions that they were just one of those acts that choose never to perform live seemed true until a few months ago Flag announced they'd be supporting fellow former label mates Seabound in London. (Apparently they first played live in the UK last year - but that had completely passed me by.) Artefacts having made such an impression on me, I just assumed that there were loads of others out there like me who couldn't wait to hear their trance inspired electro live. But that wasn't so.

Auto AggressionA handful of us stood near the front (including Seabound singer Frank Spinath) but everyone else stood resolutely where they were continuing their conversations, many not even turning to face the two-piece act. High volume aside, to mine ears if no body else's, Auto Aggression (a name I've always thought never does their sound justice) delivered on their promise. A touch more rave inspired and thumping than I expected, their largely instrumental electronics satisfied my long-held cravings perfectly. Not that most of those gathered seemed to notice as lead vocalist Timur noted between tracks: "I like this chit chat." he said, sounding vaguely reminiscent of Antonio Banderas in Assassins. The crowd ignored him, continuing their conversations. "I hope you are enjoying yourselves?" he asked… nothing. Then, realising that attempts to engage with the majority were futile: "OK, we'll provide the background music!". However, what followed was anything but audio wallpaper.

I didn't know around half the set but not having gotten around to hearing their 2005 debut Geräuschinformatik that wasn't surprising. Only a track I think was called Change, which sounded like an old bedroom demo that they found it hard to let go, wasn't worthy of the set. Everything else was terrific - managing to confidently straddle the dance and industrial poles bands like Front 242 have done so expertly down the years. Composer Lukas Schneider deserves mostof the plaudits there, but kept a low profile behind his synth at the back of the stage. None were introduced as new songs and with two years since Artefacts they must be due some new material. Hopefully, they are beavering away in that studio of theirs (bedroom or otherwise) working on a third album. By the end of Auto Aggression's set the Purple Turtle crowd did clap and cheer their appreciation. Hopefully, the band will have educated and converted a few more to their cause. Certainly, I cannot recommend them highly enough.

RBN, previously Revolution By Night, don't really do it for me. A kind of natural evolution of the distinctive UK sound of rocky Goth meets keyboards of the darkwave movement a decade back. When I saw the line up I was surprised that they were billed above Auto Aggression. Shows what I know. In stark contrast to the two Germans, RBN clearly have something of a fan base (but then this was in the heart of Camden - where if playing such music and you can't build a fan base you must be doing something very wrong). Somewhat distractingly lead singer Steve Weeks reminded me of the leader of the BNP Nick Griffith, must have been the black shirt and sensible haircut. I wasn't sure about introducing the two other band members within five minutes of starting your set with the proverbial: "Ladies and gentlemen, on keyboards, Mr Bryon Adamson..." as if the name meant anything to anyone outside of the Purple Turtle tonight. The glow sticks were now out and that self-consciously wanky dancing that sees people twisting their arms around like some deranged orang-utan. I sought refuge at the back of the venue. To these untrained ears, most of the songs sounded like the Machine Code variety, but Faithless (something of an anthem for the band) still stands out and final track Straftanz UK gave us a more interesting dynamic as Adamson joined in on lead vocal duties.

Seabound: Frank SpinathSeabound: this being my third time of sampling, I'm kinda in the groove now. I know what to expect: passionate, genuine delivery; doing justice to the recordings without being constrained by the studio versions; and vocals that align well with the album counterparts capturing all the characteristics and yet deliver in a live context without resorting to hollering. Tonight was certainly the most fun I've had with Seabound live as a result of me aligning what they deliver with what my expectations were.

"I've been riding the Northern Line…" (part of London's underground metro system) said front man Frank Spinath. He went on: "It feels like home. It's great to be back." Any well-travelled band might feel compelled to offer up such platitudes from time to time, but in Spinath's case this was no sop to the local crowd. A qualified psychiatrist, as part of his training in 2001 he lived in Camberwell, south London to be exact, and was apparently a frequent user of the Northern Line (poor sod). So his frequent claims to the audience (which was seriously partisan anyhow) about being in Camden feeling like coming home came across as they were clearly intended - as a genuine bit of heart to the fans. Moreover, just to prove to those gathered here tonight that he was genuine in all that he said, he commented that he knew just how much hard work London crowds in particular can be and the reception Seabound were receiving tonight (an ecstatic one) meant a lot to them. (The indifference of the London set having already well documented on this website - this was an accurate and astute observation - and one that only meant the assembled crowd appreciated the performance they got even more.)

Spinath's martial arts kata-like dance moves were part Kurt Smith from Tears For Fears, part Andy McClusky from OMD. They looked more like the former but were a touch naff - like the latter. But, like McClusky, it was impossible for the singer to refrain from expressing his emotional connection to the material. Frankly (no pun intended) would it be that we saw this kind of throwing 'cool image' to the wind and just getting on engaging with the music more often. In contrast throughout, was Martin Vorbroot who (with a live drummer) kept a low profile towards the back of the stage. He's the mastermind behind most of the music and like a lot of these synth bods, seems totally content with someone else soaking up the lights and adulation at the front.

Spinath stated that this gig was the last time those in the UK would get to see Seabound live for some years to come. Saying they had plans to retreat back to the studio to write and record new material, he stated it could be up to two or three years before this opportunity arose again. Dismay from the Camden crowd in response but it ensured they didn't hold back in making their appreciation of this rare date clear. There was a tangible sense tonight of Seabound really consolidating their position as sitting squarely in the centre of the European alternative electro scene. A solid base from which to launch the new material - how ever long it takes for it to emerge. They needn't rush it. On the strength of this evening, there'll be plenty waiting. 7/10

Rob Dyer