This was the first chance to catch Canada's Assemblage 23 and their over-the-border US neighbours cut.rate.box as tonight represented the first live performances in the UK for these two electronic beat acts. Germany's haujobb are a loose point of reference for both acts. Older, EBM industrial period for cut.rate.box. Whilst Assemblage 23 take in more of the ambient idm feel of haujobb's more recent releases.
cut.rate.box know how to strike a balance between mood and aggression. Two synth players flanked the competent singer g. wygonik. No need for distortion here as wygonik's voice held its own amid the jumbling drums and swirling, glacial keyboards. Lyrically less obvious than most, with little techno worship and more straightforward emotions, cut.rate.box quickly established their credentials and the industrial/goth/electro audience responded enthusiastically. Effectively combining acidic squeaks with weighty (but not thunderous) beats the resulting heavy dance/EBM tip retained interest throughout.
Assemblage 23 is Tom Shear, although here he was accompanied by a gargantuan keyboard player and a guy standing, playing drum pads. A suitable follow up to cut.rate.box, Assemblage 23 approach their sound with equal amounts of sensitivity and raw energy. The results are like the seasons. From the chill of winter to the warmth of summer, Assemblage 23's songs draw on various electronic music traditions yet emerges distinctive - testament to Shear's writing ability. In addition to the aforementioned haujobb, VNV Nation also spring to mind during the more anthemic mid-tempo tracks, but Shear out-performs VNV's Ronan in the vocals stakes. His range and resilience apparent in the unexpected but striking encore.
"This last song is a cover. You should know this one, these guys are from over here", said Shear. I admit, I immediately thought of Depeche Mode (since most electronic acts choosing to do a cover tend to fall back on something safe and reliable such as the Basildon boys). But Assemblage 23 were, thankfully, far more imaginative than I, launching into a brilliant cover of Love My Way by The Psychedelic Furs. This gave me the opportunity to sing along to every word and was the best live cover I have heard in a long time. The keyboard player accurately recreated the lead synth lines (and sounds) of the original with ease, whilst Shear did justice to Richard Butler's inimitable voice. A bold conclusion to a terrific set that typified what sets this act apart from their competitors. The euphoric response from the audience confirmed that Assemblage 23's standing here in the UK is already well established and appreciated. One couldn't have asked for two better UK debuts.