Mirrors/Ghost Eyes

Heaven, London - 8 March 2011

"I've always been a sucker for synth men in suits"

The sole reason for visiting Heaven on a cold Tuesday evening in early March was newcomers Mirrors. I stumbled upon this Brighton four-piece surfing through MySpace just a couple of weeks earlier and was instantly charmed by their OMD, meets Joy Division, meets, Kraftwerk, meets indie popsters sound, and as soon as I heard tracks from their debut album (Lights and Offerings released last month) knew I had to check them out live to see just how they measured up to their obvious promise. Thankfully, they are in the midst of an album promotion tour and acting as official support to tonight’s headliners Fujiya and Miyagi (who don’t make the cut here as I was non-plussed by them, leaving after a couple of songs).

Though a bit late getting on stage, Ghost Eyes were a decent start to the night in spite of the still quite thin audience. Stubborn cables rendering one of their keyboards useless for a couple of minutes early in their set didn’t faze them. “We always do that to get attention” their singer quipped once the fault was resolved. Utilising headliners’ Fujiya Miyagi’s terrific drum kit meant their percussion sounded fantastically pin sharp. The shuffling beats and fat synths are Ghost Eyes strongest features. At their thickest and fattest they prompted thoughts of Asian Dub Foundation – which was unexpected. The vocals I was less enamoured with and the songs generally were a tad flat for my liking.

I’ve always been a sucker for synth men in suits, be it Kraftwerk, John Foxx, Orchestral Manouvres In The Dark, Covenant, Trademark or, now, Mirrors. From Dusseldorf in the 1970s, to Liverpool in the 1980s, Helsingborg in the 1990s, Oxford in the 2000s, and with Mirrors, Brighton in the present day, collectively there’s something going on here and I don’t just mean sartorially. It’s fair to point out that their beguiling suite of electronic pop songs draws ample inspiration from the first two bands mentioned above, but cleverly adds into the mix the everyday, honest, firmly English-accented lead vocals more often found in the UK indie rock scene. Not for nothing has the name Franz Ferdinand been mentioned in the context of Mirrors.

Having immersed myself in Mirrors for a couple of weeks in the run-up to this gig, I was well-versed in their sound and immediately memorable tunes. So this was less an evening of musical discovery, more one of validation. That would come essentially from just how well they presented, handled and acquitted themselves in a live setting – always a major test for any electronics-heavy band. A minimalist stage set up presenting a row of synths for each of the four members looked promising. They had the regulation back projections but, to be honest, I was so enthralled with just watching the four of them perform, that I didn’t much notice what was being screened. They looked as good as the definitive Kraftwerk line up of the late 70s. And, like Hütter, Schneider, Bartos, and Flür – each has distinctive features setting them apart from their otherwise uniformity.

Looking toward the stage, the performance action was focused on the two nearest the centre of the stage – singer James New and the accountant-like Ally Young. On the far left was James Arguile. Standing still, passive expression, looking straight into the audience he methodically played his keyboard parts. On the opposite side was Josef Page whose drum technology echoed that Kraftwerk's Flür invented decades before – a couple of long knitting needles and some synth pads. But the sound they produced was awesome. Those two upright, largely expressionless figures neatly bookended the rest other two. Young was the expressive keyboard player – not naff like Billy Curry was in the 80s, but certainly comfortable with super exaggerated movements and fingers arched in dainty configurations. 

Then, there is singer New. If sceptics need any reassurance that these boys are not just a fashion thing, that these young men are serious about what they are doing and where they are going just watch the singer perform. Generally speaking, electronic bands are not known for their passionate singers. But, like Ian Curtis, Andy McKluskey and Trademark’s Oliver Horton, has no qualms whatsoever in freely expressing his total absorption in their music. The complete lack of inhibition is a joy to behold. Not that any of this remarkable honesty on stage stopped a reasonable contingent of young females screaming their adoration. The passing resemblance to The Beatles (slim-suited mop tops – dark suits/dark mops) suddenly didn’t seem quite so tenuous!

Their sound is a magical formula blending old and new that when mixed correctly has potent power and Mirrors have the experiment variables just about aligned. On the evidence of their debut album and this performance they certainly deserve longevity. Of the album material, the live rendition of Fear of Drowning surpassed even my hopes, whilst recent single Into The Heart clearly represents Mirrors’ best shot at mainstream success. However, it was during the more out-there, Krautrocking moments that Mirrors’ truly came into their own. Nowhere was this showcased better than on the psychedelic Lights And Offerings, (which, inexplicably doesn't feature on the album of the same title) five minutes of motorik glory, gradually building to a frenetic crescendo that sent you out into the night on a buzzing high. Only disappointment was that playing the supporting role they only had 30 minutes in which to shine. Nevertheless, shine they did. 7/10 

Rob Dyer