Mechanical Cabaret/Das Flüff/Cult With No Name/Cryogenica

Electrowerkz, London - 26 November 2021

"Swanky. Beguiling. Glorious. Christmas had come early"

Billed as an Electro Double Bill, tonight saw three acts that I would have happily gone to see individually. Christmas had come early.

First up though were Cryogenica, who I last recall seeing at The Purple Turtle supporting the late great Nash The Slash. Slightly weirdly, that was 13 years before, almost to the very day: 28 November 2008.

Can't say I remember seeing them in the intervening years, but there was something satisfying about them having lasted so long and to see them still doing their thing. And their thing is a rock-influenced heavy goth vibe. Not really my thing mind you, but live there was some very solid drum work helping to keep a pretty tight performance throughout. Due to YOU KNOW WHAT, they hadn't played live for two years.

Maybe that's why the performance felt a bit workmanlike, as if we'd walked in on a rehearsal. Lead female vocalist aside, it lacked passion. Animal was best of the set for my tastes, largely thanks to a nice middle break section. New song Inner Twist got its first ever live airing, but their whole set was just too damn loud.

In contrast and next on stage were suit-wearing alt-lounge duo Cult With No Name. With the ballad their preferred song format of choice and most often constructed around a piano sound, on paper they certainly looked like the musical outliers of the night. And they were.

However, rather than sounding incongruous, they'd cleverly (and smartly) carefully selected the entries for tonight's set list, focusing on the material that was with more overtly electronic or beat driven, or both. The result was simply terrific.

I've seen Cult With No Name live many times, and this performance was instantly up there as one of their best ever for my tastes. They began proceedings with the skipping drum groove of Over and Out of Here from 2014's Another Landing album, featuring Kelli Ali on guest vocals (not live but on backing track).

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Photos L-R: Running order, Cult With No Name x2

The steady build of All This Spite (Comes at a Price) from their 2019 Mediaburn album sounded excellent and as if it had been taken from a James Bond film soundtrack. Low and High (also from Mediaburn) had never performed live before.

Two tracks from their latest album Nights In North Sentinel released earlier this year, The Automatic Day and Noa's Arc were up next. They closed their set with the excellent Everything Lasts An Age. The carefully curated approach to their set worked a treat, nicely embedding me in for the rest of the evening.

There's a swanky panache about singer Erik Stein's delivery, but it comes across as effortless and never arrogant. Meanwhile, dexterous keyboard player Jon Boux just keeps his head down throughout, leaving Stein to do the posing while he delivers the musical goods time after time. 

Set list: Over and Out of Here, All This Spite (Comes at a Price), Wasted, Low on High, The Automatic Day, Noa's Arc, Everything Lasts An Age

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Photos L-R: Das Flüff x 3

Oh! Das Flüff how I have missed thee!

There's something alchemical about experiencing Das Flüff live. It had been too long since I'd been in their company. This was (as ever) a dark delight. The set featured a couple of new songs, the excellent Suicide Fail and Dance 'Til The End, and several choice cuts from their most recent album Maximum Damage.

Das Flüff have always operated, and worked, on two levels simultaneously. You could not listen to the lyrics, close your eyes and miss the theatrical delivery and simply listen to their thumpingly good tunes. But what sets them apart are the intricacies of their composition that are at once impressive and beguiling.

Little Tearaway, another new song, apparently about kindergarten children climbing a tree while Dawn was trying to do yoga! Priceless. A duet with Roi from Mechanical Cabaret on Wake Up was joyful to behold. If you've never seen Das Flüff live there is a hole in your life that you're not yet aware of. All I can tell you is to indulge yourself at the next opportunity.

Set list: Maximum Damage, Thee, Lying Lips, Millennial, Not Enough, Strip Down, One Day, Wake Up, Love Bites, Suicide Fail, Dance 'Til The End, Little Tearaway, Skin On Skin, Big Fucking Love

Back in the day, like 21 years ago (WTF?!), Mechanical Cabaret were a two-piece live. Roi Robertson on lead vocals and the odd bit of drum pad smashing and tinkling some synth keys, and Tobie Chandler mainly on synths.

Around the mid naughties, Bruce Lovelock joined on percussion, rounding them out as a three-piece live for a period. Bruce and Tobie then both moved abroad and departed the band, while production whiz Steve Bellamy, of Greenhaus fame, took on a greater role, helping to take Mechanical Cabaret onto another level both in the studio and live.

Having often chatted to Roi, for sometime he had been keen on having more music played live and had been actively looking for a third member to join him and Bellamy on stage. Then, last year, Tobie returned home to the UK (to get married) and Steve noticed Tobie walking along the street one day and the penny dropped. Why hadn't they asked Tobie if he wanted to re-join the band for live shows? So they did, and he accepted. Yay!

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Photos L-R: Mechanical Cabaret

Tonight's set began with the singles Little Joys and Black Mirror, before delving into classic back catalogue territory with Disbehave and Blank Canvas, two of their best songs. Both dating back to 2006's Product For Your Insecurity album. Blank Canvas still sounds as raw live as it ever did, the true essence of the punk attitude magnificently maintained.

Having recently married himself (must be something in the MC water), Roi was clearly in a good place in his head. This came across in spades throughout his performance and was an absolute pleasure to be around and to see. And the audience lapped it up too. One guy next to me in front of the stage was totally absorbed, only briefly taking time out to tell me what a fantastic showman Roi is, before fawningly laying is hands on Roi whenever he came close.

To emphasise the Electro Double Bill header, Das Fluff's Dawn Lintern returned the favour from earlier, joining the band on stage for a duet on Death Trip Sex. It had already been a splendiferous evening up until now, and Mechanical Cabaret's set rounded off what was a complete delight.

This was one of the most enjoyable Mechanical Cabaret gigs I've been to over a period of more than 20 years, and I've been to a few! A perfect end to a glorious (and dark) winter evening, and a very timely and welcome respite from the travails of the world outside. 8/10

Set list: Little Joys, Black Mirror, Disbehave, Blank Canvas, Different But The Same, Interesting Times, Bus Stop Stripper, Perverse In Reverse, Death Trip Sex, See Her Smile, Nothing Special, I Lost My Friend To A Videogame

Review + Photos: Rob Dyer