Stasi, One Unique Signal, Nosferatu D2, Special Benny
Liam McGrady 25/05/2006
Out of Camden station and you can't move tonight without tripping over an emo kid - AFI are at the Electric Ballroom. Luckily I'm heading just a short way to the chic basement that is the Colour Bar and only have to jostle through a dozen or so groups of black clad teens, managing to arrive unscathed - protecting your eyes from the rigid spiked hair is the key.
Despite the venue being pretty empty when they take to the stage, the six members of Special Benny play as if in front of a packed house. Like The Go! Team without the hip hop samples, there are three part harmonies that lift the hairs on your arms, a wailing saxophone here, a little toy keyboard there. Just staying on the right side of the line between experimental pop and freeform jazz, Special Benny make the kind of music I imagine superheroes listen to on an afternoon off.
Nosferatu d2 are a different proposition completely. Where the previous band could barely fit onto the small makeshift stage, Nosferatu d2 are two towering men in black, and although light on numbers they're certainly not slight in sound. Just a drummer and guitarist, rhythms are machine gun like from the double kick pedal, and riffs are ragged and coruscating. Fair enough, many bands around now are stripping back or losing an instrument in order to find an original sound, but Nosferatu d2 do it better than most - especially through the amazing drummer who must have an extra limb or two judging by the gargantuan noise emanating from the back of the stage.
One Unique Signal may have a conventional line up compared to the first two bands, but musically they're anything but. Drawn out bouts of feedback dissolve then erupt into mangled guitar lines, scrawling all over the just audible melodies with disregard and contempt like a moody child deliberately going outside the lines of their colouring book. At their most basic One Unique Signal are like a Math Rock Interpol, the drummer adding icy cold monotone vocals to the complex yet precision guitar attack, but at their most experimental are like not much else out there right now.
Headlining tonight are three piece, Stasi. Like 65Daysofstatic who they've recently supported, the band mix up Mogwai-esque post-rock and electronica but in Amit Sharma possess a vocalist to set them apart from other bands in this genre. On opener 'Mixed Inglish' drums akin to cut and paste beats and loud/quiet guitars are the launch pad for Sharma to sing skyward, pure and operatic ala Matt Bellamy. In fact mid way through the set comes 'Riding The Biaxial' which with it's delicate piano melody and funereal pace reminds most of Muse. Ending with the euphoric 'That's The Future' all gurgling Wah Wah and intricate guitars and room shaking percussion, Stasi may not be too different to the bands named above, but they play with enough passion and conviction - and of course have that voice - making band and crowd seem as one where others come across as uninterested and detached.
Walking back to the station I overhear one particular spikey haired kid claiming that the AFI gig at the Electric Ballroom was “one of the best gigs I've been to in ages”. Well ditto young man; but I'm not talking about AFI.