An Experiment On A Bird In The Air Pump are strong contenders for ‘most unwieldy band name of the year’. Precisely why they use their name to recall the 18th century Wright painting of a ghoulish scientific demonstration, this writer doesn’t know. Fuck it. Onto things that matter.
With vast fringes, scarlet lipstick, assorted adventures with fishnet and head-shaving, plus pipes on them like foghorns, the Filipino/South Indian trio that make up An Experiment… resemble comic-strip heroines that no-one wise would fuck with. They switch places frequently, each taking turns behind the mic, swapping bass guitars and battering primitive but formidable rhythms from the drums they stand behind. From the distance of the bar, as their venomous cover of Sonic Youth’s ’100 Percent’ rings out across a busy and expectant audience, this feels like the sort of gig that filmmakers try and so frequently fail to channel – the kind whose crowd are self-contained but entirely in thrall to the act onstage. Up close, it’s gloweringly hypnotic – barely moving, they nonetheless command the room with regal, disdainful ease. This band are swiftly developing something of a reputation, and deservedly so.
Comparisons have been made with the Ronettes and the Shangri-Las, but despite being a gang of girls with a very defined look, An Experiment… don’t feel like a ‘girl band’, gothy and avante-garde or otherwise. The three sets of lungs that belt out these war-cry songs, and the sparse but pummelling twin bass and drum onslaught that they purvey, require each of these women specifically (two of whom are sisters). They seem to have been excavated from a history of shared furies and ambitions. This is one band that wasn’t assembled from a ‘girls wanted’ ad.
Musically, they have much more in common with Section 25′s relentless, monotone post-punk (it’s wryly amusing that the first thing they call to mind is the band that wrote ‘Girls Don’t Count’), and the Raveonettes’ degraded, voluptuous and cinematically stripped-down retro-fuzz. At this stage, the comparisons are unavoidable – if you like their influences, An Experiment sound more like the successful and Frankenstein-ish results of some direct splicing. Perhaps there’s something in their name after all. But more importantly, they’re young, focused and very very good, so the likelihood is their identity will find its own form as they go on.
Photo via their Myspace page and taken at the 100 Club 20/08/08.