Curxes/Automatic Writing/Oberheim

The Ship, Leigh-On-Sea, Essex - 14 December 2012

"The ideal end to a year of gigging"

This little Xmas Box came courtesy of Essex-based BAS Productions, purveyors of the very fine (and 2012 dsoaudio Best Gig award winning) BAS II Festival over a weekend in May, which saw cult act (and personal faves) Naked Lunch appear live for the first time in 30 years. Two interesting facts can be drawn from this:

1.) That BAS have some impressive booking power 
2.) The world works in mysterious ways

My reasoning for the latter observation is that on the same night as this event, Naked Lunch were playing only their second live date in 30 years. When I initially saw the date clash I was genuinely split as to what to do. It was impossible to do both – one had to give. Ultimately, I simply had to enforce one of my guiding missions which is to seek out new acts or acts I have never heard before. I'd seen all three bands on the Naked Lunch bill, whereas on the BAS line-up all were new to me, with one (Oberheim) making their live debut. Gutted though I was at missing Naked Lunch premiere new material live, I put my faith in the universe and headed out to the wilds of Essex.

Like the aforementioned festival, tonight contained all the traits that have been staples of my BAS experiences so far, namely, an ability to put on a quality event, providing a platform for new and emerging electronic music talent, generating decent and very enthusiastic audiences and delivering superb value for money. Tickets for tonight were 10 on the day (although it was close to a sell-out) – just 8 in advance. 

[Live photo] [Live photo] [Live photo]

Photos [L-R]: Oberheim, Automatic Writing, Curxes

Oberheim are better know to some as Depeche Mode covers band Speak & Spell. This may have been the first live outing of their own material under their own banner (a great band name mercifully not wasted!) and whilst vocalist Paul Christian Wood took a while to warm up, the material they delivered was impressive in its maturity and richness. I don't know the facts, but their half-hour set was a series of well-constructed compositions sounding like they had been worked on considerably before any thoughts about performing them live had been seriously entertained. The effect was like seeing a group that have been writing and performing together for years and you'd only just found out about them. Of course, the band do have the advantage of performing under another guise for some years but entertaining though Speak & Spell certainly are, Oberheim is a different proposition entirely. I was won over by their gorgeous analogue-sounding synths, affecting melodies, imaginative vocal lines and decent lyrics too. I'm already looking forward to seeing them live again and to hear their first recorded material.

Oberheim setlist: The Rich And The Righteous, Phoenix, Witch, Sugar, Walking Tall

Automatic Writing is the alter-ego of brothers Neave and Jamie Merrick. Their powerfully unconventional approach to electronic noise recalls a harder-edged version of very early OMD, where experimental guitars, white noise and synthesisers fight each other for superiority, irrespective of whether the vehicle is a three minute pop song or a ten minute krautrocking piledriver. Single Continuous (sat perfectly midway between those extremes) was enough to convince me these photogenic siblings might just sit atop a rare creative seam. Their eight song contribution to this evening's programme was the most unexpectedly thrilling thirty minutes of the year. This was one of those precious times when output meets taste in the deepest possible way. In fact, so impressive were Automatic Writing that at the eleventh hour they snatched Best Newcomer in our 2012 awards.

Automatic Writing setlist: This Is Happening, Control, Continuous, Crystal Visions, Strange Creature, Falling, Comparisons

Headliners Curxes seemed to garner praise everywhere they turned during 2012. Citing their influences as Depeche Mode, Sleigh Bells, The Knife and David Bowie they produce dark and dramatic electronic pop from thier base in Brighton. Conceptually attractive then, I was keen to see what they'd serve up in a gig setting. Augmented this evening by the drummer from Strangers, the live instrumentation was built around Roberta Fidora's keyboards and Macaulay Hopwood's guitar. These three major live elements all that's required to convey their urgent, jabbing sound. Not willing to be constrained by a stage, Fidora repeatedly wandered into the audience, singing and charming as she went. It quickly created the perfect irreverent party atmosphere that an intimate gig at this time of year. Their perhaps too-brief set concluded in seasonal fashion. It started with Fidora handing out mini chocolate yule logs and finished with a quirkily effective rendition of Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

Curxes setlist: Spectre, Once Upon A Time, Creatures, The Constructor, Valkyrie, Further Still, Haunted GoldHave Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

A special mention too goes to the DJs, particularly Steve Thorogood whose resonant set was like a nostalgic rummage through my vinyl collection. A rock solid trio of bands served up a superb night's entertainment, it was the ideal end to a year of gigging. 8/10

Rob Dyer