Synthetic City 2018 Reloaded:
Marlow/Shiny Darkness/Hemmingway/The Rude Awakening feat. Bridget Gray/Amarda Named Sound/Battery Operated Orchestra/Androids In The Mist/Caroline McLavy/Samuel/Hands of Industry

The Water Rats, London - 22 September 2018

"A brilliant day"

After a long week at work, I finally made the decision that an event with such a line up was not one to be missed, luckily, I bought the ticket on line as otherwise I might have given up as I forgot how bad travel could be at weekends. Luckily, I had left plenty of time, so I managed to get into the venue having only missed the opening number of the first act Caroline McLavy.

I have seen Caroline perform a couple of tracks with Nature of Wires as a guest vocalist, and on the strength of that purchased her album Electrostatic. Tracks from which provided most of the set, and premiered the video for Miss Perfect.

Caroline McLavy Synthetic City 2018
     Samuel Synthetic City 2018    Hemmingway Synthetic City 2018

Photos [L-R]: Caroline McLavy, Samuel, Hemmingway

I am not sure Caroline was totally comfortable in her PVC outfit, but she looked great (and from the number of views shared on my Flickr Page that seems to be a shared view) and more importantly she sounded even better. So glad I did not miss this act because of the travel as it was one which I really wanted to see.

I saw Samuel at his first ever performance at the Beehive in Bow, although if you did not know this you would not have thought this was the case given the stage presence and performance with which he performed. I am glad to say he did not disappoint, and he mixed stage craft with great music production and sound he performed a number of tracks including once again his homage to Quentin Tarrentino Cocaine Cowboy.

Hemmingway I had previously seen at the Ipswich Free Festival on a glorious summer's day in the park and were the main act I wanted to see at the festival. So, the setting was somewhat different, but I have to say the sound production was much better. As ever it was another engaging set by CeCe and a superlative performance by David on guitars.

Battery Operated Orchestra Synthetic City 2018    Androids in the Mist Synthetic City 2018    Hands of Industry Synthetic City 2018

Photos [L-R]: Battery Operated Orchestra, Androids In The Mist, Hands of Industry

I was surprised to see Battery Operated Orchestra (BOO) on so early, but as ever they gave a great performance of tracks from their new album Snare as well as from Radiation. BOO are one of those acts that captivate me in many ways. Chris is absolutely fascinating to watch creating music from his table of gadgets, whilst Brigitte puts so much drama and passion into her performance. Yes, I did buy the new album at the gig.

This was the first ever live performance by Androids in the Mist and hence the first time I have heard any of their music. It sounded very dynamic and well put together, but being rather guitar orientated was not my thing, although it did seem to be for many others in the audience. Hands of Industry: I am still left wondering how well you can see the keyboards when wearing sunglasses in a dark room, but despite this self-inflicted handicap, they did look cool and sounded very good. Definitely worth a watch.

Hiltipop Synthetic City 2018    Armada Named Sound Synthetic City 2018    The Rude Awakening Synthetic City 2018

Photos [L-R]: Hiltipop, Armada Named Sound, The Rude Awakening

Next up were Hiltipop a very energetic synth duo from Sweden. Showing influences from New Order, Depeche Mode and others in that genre, I really enjoyed there set and hope to see them again. One track sounded uncannily like Slipping Again by Naked Lunch - which, if you know me, has to be a good thing.

OK, so Armada Named Sound were a fun act, consisting of Yeva (vocals) Eli (bass) and Spiros (keys and vocals). They were a real mixed group to look at. Yeva (dressed in what looked like a sparkly boxer's outfit - complete with black robe), Spiros looking very cool in stripy trousers, and Eli looking very smart in a Hussars jacket and carrying a very swanky bass. That said, the group really seemed to jell and integrate with each other with a real sense of support, fun and enjoyment and the music was good to boot. Will try to see these guys again. By the way, loved the blue lipstick Yeva.

The Rude Awakening featuring Bridget Gray - so I thought it unusual to have a Synth City event without Johnny Normal. Well, I was not let down as instead we were given a performance of one of Kurt Sinclair's other alter egos. As ever, there was a very professional performance by Johnny/Kurt, ably supported by brilliant vocals from Bridget Gray. I have to say they both look great in their white suits and black eye makeup.

Shiny Darkness Synthetic City 2018    Marlow Synthetic City 2018

Photos [L-R]: Shiny Darkness, Marlow

When it comes to Shiny Darkness, it's all about synth pop. They gave a great performance and I really enjoyed their set. It was impressive seeing both vocalists Sebastien Deruwez (composer, lead vocals, keyboards) and Katerina Pantazi (vocals, keyboards, bass) perform to a very high standard. Rounding out the band live tonight are Olivier Jacques (keyboards, backing vocals, visuals) and Gianluca Graziano (guitar). Theirs was a terrific set and they're lovely people to boot.

I have to admit to being a bit of a Robert Marlow fan boy, having seen in him the 1980's and buying his singles back in the day. I also went to see him perform at BAS a few years back. So, this was a new line up with Robert on vocals and Gary Durant on synths and backing vocals. It was a great set that included Face of Dorian Gray, You've Got No Heart and Claudette (a personal favourite) as well as a brilliant cover of Depeche Mode's New Life.

So, overall a brilliant day. Unfortunately it overrun a bit (as these events sometimes do) despite Kurt's excellent organisation, but it did mean that a large part of the audience had to leave to get home before Marlow had started/finished his set which was a shame for all involved.

Also got to mention the brilliant DJ sets by Rob Harvey between the acts. 8/10

Review + Photos: Mark Smith