Pink Diamond Revue/LegPuppy/Dicepeople/AkA
and Anchor, London - 31 August 2019
anyone tells you electronic music is boring live then you should
tell them to come out to nights like this"
I was born in
1967, so just about the right time to go and see many of the
pioneers of the electronic scene (both big and small names) that exploded
in the UK at the start of the 1980s. I
took photos at pretty much every gig I went to back then, and
realise now, decades later, how much some of those far from
professional, but rare shots mean to me.
through the stacks of prints from that era also reminds me how
fortunate I am to have seen so many acts, often in their prime, so
up close in small venues especially in London. I remember going to a
4AD night at the ULU (University of London Union) in 1985 that had
Clan of Xymox, Dif Juz and Wolfgang Press all on the same bill. As
if that weren't enough, that same evening, a very young Beloved
performed in the bar for free!
A one-off and
unforgettable experience that will never be repeated.
That's why I
went to so many gigs back in those days. And I have many such
examples of what made (and still make) going to see live bands in
small venues still such a thrill.
far as I can remember, I never went to any gigs at the legendary
Hope and Anchor pub in the London borough of Islington. 'Curiously'
as it has long been a key live circuit venue for bands on the rise.
Joy Division, The Cure, U2, The Stranglers, The Clash and Ramones
all played in the small basement room here early in their careers.
Credit: Rob Dyer #1 + #3, Mark Smith #2
down there may have changed around a few times down the years, but
the energy, excitement and discovery of new music possible there
remains as persistent as it ever was.
Billed as a
night of 'Random Lunacy', and organised primarily by Matt Brock of
Dicepeople, this mirrored a number of gigs I've attended here in the
last few years. Several of those were promoted by Mark Smith (a
frequent contributor to this publication) under his Eclectic
Electric banner. A showcase for little-known but often creatively
enticing acts that frequently delivered impressive lineups.
And that tradition was perfectly captured and continued tonight.
artists on the final bill (the lineup shifted slightly from when
first announced) were all ones I'd gladly go an see individually. So
to have all four together, in such an intimate and historically
significant venue, on a single evening felt positively indulgent.
I'd seen all
the acts before. For me, one of the main reasons I come out to
smaller gigs like this one, is to discover previously unknown music,
or to catch live for the first time artists I've listened to but
never seen on stage. it is rare that such a 'seen them all before'
list of bands would compel me to attend. That's no slight on any of
the bands on tonight's bill, but rather an indication of my
never-ending desire to hear great new music live.
First up was
Henri Sizaret's minimalist, purely electronic project AkA
which has captivated my attention for five years now. Sizaret brings
as much dry wit to his presentation as he is meticulous about his
sound composition. The more I hear this project develop, the more I
like it. Thankfully, making no concessions whatsoever to popular
appeal, AkA is steadily (and through a prolific, but consistently
high standard set of releases) defining its unique sound.
branded as 'Dataism Alive' by Sizaret, focused on his latest
(and best) album so far Dataism. Because
Sizaret doesn't sing, the album features a smattering of abstract,
treated vocals by Pedro
Penas y Robles of electro industrial project HIV+
on a couple of tracks: Body Bang, Gone, both of which were
Working from a
(suitably) minimalist equipment setup for live performance, AkA go
further than most with their presentation. Whether it's the
impressive intricacies of his kaleidoscopic back projections, or his
emerging stage costume of shorts and crisp check shirts, everything
about an AkA live performance demonstrates a rare attention to the
details. Until recently, that has also been reflected (to an extent)
in some of AkA's writing. It occasionally worked on a detailed level
but was less successful when listened to as a whole.
doesn't do 'songs' in any conventional sense. But on Dataism, and
throughout tonight's set drawing heavily from those new works,
there's a feeling that the compositions are more compelling as a
whole than much of the earlier releases.
I've been fortunate to have seen AkA a few times now (include the
project's live debut) and this was
undoubtedly the best it has yet been on stage. The performance
triumvirate of Sizaret's witty sense of humour, incredible visuals
and pristine audio is a powerful thing to experience and enjoy.
Set list: Algorythm
ON, Dataism, Body Bang, CMYK, Needle, Artificial, Gone, The
Three Graces, Humanism, Algorythm OFF
Photos [L-R]: Dicepeople
Credit: Mark Smith #1 + #2, Rob
I'm a little
surprised this is my first write up of a Dicepeople
gig, because I've seen them multiple times and liked them all.
Like many acts you come to first time with no fore-knowledge, but
are naturally attuned to, Dicepeople have steadily grown on me
over the past couple of years. I think that's in part due to their
sound gradually evolving from what they themselves describe as
electronica roots to a more defined dark electro sound.
It's a move
that has worked for them, both in their recorded output, such as
last year's impressive One From Many album, but also live
as they've emerged further from their influences with a more
confident sound of their own. The line up has also shifted during
this period. Former lead vocalist Atashi has moved on, her role
taken up by Zmora. Their respective vocal styles are quite
different (Atashi's the more 'melodic', whereas Zmora's are more
'visceral'). But it's a change that as worked well. Possibly due
to the nature of the newer material being written with Zmora's
delivery in mind.
constant is Matt
Brock who writes and performs all the music. I've been listening to
One From Many a lot recently and there's no question in my
mind that Brock has a deft touch in the studio when it comes to
production. Tonight's set included Morphia Melancholia
(from their previous End Of Line album) which had never
been performed live before, and Empress and Don't
Save Me - two completely new tracks not heard before at
all before this evening.
Zmora is an
intense performer on stage. She reads from a Dicepeople book, covers
her head in wire then slowly strips it away, kneels before Brock and
gradually undresses down to a skeleton print body stocking. She
inhabits a persona on stage, looking off, into the middle distance,
rather than looking members of the audience in the eyes. For the
duration of their set she operates on another plane.
There's detail and subtlety to the recorded music that rewards
many repeat listens. Inevitably, some of that is lost live, but it
doesn't much matter as the combination of the strong songwriting,
Zmora's stage performance, and the attention to visuals results in
an immersive and intense live experience. Dicepeople tackle some
dark subjects and do so without shying away from the fact. Indeed,
it's because they face our collective dark side face on and give
it as good as it gets that contributes to making them such a
compelling live act.
Set list: Bruised,
Time To Play, Empress, Morphia Melancholia, Synthetic (Pneumatic
Mix), Ghost, Don't Save Me
Photos [L-R]: LegPuppy
Credit: Mark Smith
It's not for
nothing that LegPuppy are
categorised under 'Visual Arts' on their Facebook page rather than
instigator Darren Laurence is also an artist, and brings something
of a Renaissance attitude to all his satirically-driven
four acts on tonight's bill, the Puppy collective bring a
distinctive voice and attitude to the proceedings, having built up
something of a 'reputation' for their on stage antics. Only the
recurring motif of somewhat sinister neon clown masks is to be
expected from this lot. Anything else might as well be at the whim
of the art performance gods.
antics, like their songwriting, are fueled by a desperate
frustration with the ills of the modern world. Their unpredictable
stage shows aren't simply a gimmick, but rather part of an entire
artist philosophy one experiences whenever they perform. Which,
although it wasn't meant to, is all beginning to sound a bit
pretentious! Point is, there is a lot more going on with LegPuppy
than your average 'band'.
The motorik drive of a song like Twit Machine
perfectly sums up the best of LegPuppy's proposition. Its
head-bobbingly infectious thumping percussion, carried along by a
looping bass drone rapidly becomes seductively hypnotic. More
acerbic than The Prodigy. Throughout all of this, standing
stoically front and centre of the stage was the artist Alice
Mania. It takes some resolve to remain as motionless and
expressionless as she did during their set. Despite the
multifarious distractions surrounding her, I couldn't take my eyes
off her. Something about her 'non-performance' performance was
something intensely rewarding about their impassioned, sarcastic,
even angry delivery that takes me back to those days of the early
80s - but shares more with the guitar-driven Leftist protest pop
of the time than the far less political synthpop it was vying for
chart position with. The irony of me filming songs like Twit
Machine on my mobile phone (at the request of the promoter I
hasten to add) was not lost on me. Indeed, I smiled broadly as I
was knowingly doing so, and mirroring the band members themselves
who pull out their 'smart' phones on cue to deliver the chorus
refrain: "Tap, tap, swipe. Thumbs up, like. Tap, tap, swipe.
Thumbs up, like".
Set list: Lucid, Nominate, Twit Machine, Kinky Emoji, Tears,
Photos [L-R]: The Pink Diamond Revue
Credit: Rob Dyer #1, Mark Smith #2 + #3
act that could follow what we had already witnessed so far this
evening and not only hold our attention, but somehow manage to take
it up yet another level, surely deserves some kind of national
award. I don't think such an award exists. So, someone needs to make
one and hand it to The Pink Diamond
only seen TPDR once before at The Water Rats in London, again on a
bill with LegPuppy. I was simultaneously mesmerised and blown away
by their talent.
So, I did not expect it to be almost exactly two years before seeing
them again, but date clashes meant I managed to miss at least three
other gigs they'd played in London since. So I was very up for this.
Diamond Revue operate in a surreal psyche world where John Barry's
theme to The Persuaders rubs repeatedly up against the thigh
of samples from Russ Meyer films. The latter giving an unexpected
but genuine connection to AkA who is also partial to the raw allure
of the shimmering hips of a curvy go go girl. Co-incidentally, there
was also a presentational connection to LegPuppy, in that TPDR are
fronted by Acid Dol - the top half of a female mannequin who is
(understandably) as immobile as Alice Mania was earlier. The sudden
short, but frequent, bursts of domestic violence metered out by lead
guitarist Tim Lane on Dol being the only time we see her move.
heard, let alone conceived of, vicious psychedelia as a genre before
seeing TPDR in 2017. But no sooner had I witnessed the opening few
bars of their set back then, than I knew this was a thing and found
myself immediately immersed in their edgy, slightly disturbing,
hallucinogenic netherworld of kaleidoscopic oil bubble projections,
nightclub glitterballs, spangly gold two-piece suits, late 1950s
Also like AkA
earlier, essentially an instrumental outfit, what few 'vocals' The
Pink Diamond Revue do feature come mainly from the characters'
mouths of the aforementioned Meyer movies and the like. They're not
a rock n roll band, but purveyors of a electro/psyche/twang from a
parallel universe. Live instrumentation is pared back to a guitar
and drums. Everything else, and it often revolves around keys of
various kinds, is on backing track.
Acid Dol, may
only be the top half of a model from another dimension and doesn't
do a great deal, but she remains a command presence. She's also one
of the best-dressed front women out there, receive continual costume
changes courtesy of an unnamed dresser. He steps in throughout the
set, switching her from silver bikini tops to leopard skin print
scarves, an array of hats, sunglasses, floral dresses, belts,
necklaces, jackets and stylish overcoats. She easily outdoes the
much-lauded costume changes of this year's pop princess, and will no
doubt outlast them all.
Rob, the Henri
Rollins look-a-like drummer lays down a mean, rock solid beat,
whether using sticks or brushes. No superfluous Keith Moon
distractions from this guy. The main protagonist, guitarist Tim,
with his slicked back hair, black tattoos creeping up his neck and
onto his knuckles, retro-styled suit, big collar shirt, and vicious
stare, looks every bit like he's on the run from Pinkie Brown's gang
in Brighton Rock, and would cut anyone with his flick knife
who threatened to give away his current whereabouts to those
No one puts on
a show quite like The Pink Diamond Revue do.
Set List: Microdot,
Final Meal Request, Blink, Acid Dol, Lux, Weird Love, Miss Lonely
Hearts, At The Discotheque, Go Go Girl
tells you electronic music is boring live then you should tell them
to come out to nights like this.
I urge you to see each and every one of the acts on tonight's bill
whenever the chance arises.
'random lunacy' was actually anything but. It was a
carefully-curated revue of some of the best live performers
currently active, delivering pretty much everything you could ask of
a gig. Rarely do you get four such impressive live performers on the
same bill. The bonus of seeing them all in such intimate and
historically significant live music venue as The Hope and Anchor was
simply icing on an already wonderful night of tasty musical cake.
On nights like this (and that 4AD night in 1985), it's too easy to
not to pause for a moment, and take stock of what of what one has
experienced. I can only hope that in another 35 years from now, I'll
still be around to look back with more cherished memories and
realise just how fortunate I have been in my gig going life. 8/10
Photos: Rob Dyer + Mark Smith