Set in the heart of Soho, the cabaret bar Madame Jo Jos plays host to White Heat Club every Tuesday and well, this past Tuesday offered something a little bit special in the form of a Transparent Records curated evening. Not only are the Swedish dance pop trio Museum of Bellas Artes over here for their debut UK show but JD Samson and Johanna Fatemen of Le Tigre fame are here in their latest musical incarnation MEN and sandwiched in between the young purveyors of dream pop Echo Lake.
Up first this evening is MEN, hailing from Brooklyn the three-piece stomp onto the stage amidst an atmosphere of heightened expectations, after all this is two members of the famous feminist post punk group Le Tigre we are talking about and their appearance was kept will under wraps until the final moments.
Kicking things off with the jarring rhythm of ‘Boom Boom’, Samson’s piercing howls twist around looping guitars and infectious generated bleeps. Drenched in pink light Samson grabs what appears to a rabbit mask with a more literal take on tangling the proverbial carrot as she yelps: “I’m a tease.” Previous single ‘Credit Card Babies’ draws the biggest cheer, as the band discuss that it was written about how difficult it is for gay couples to have children.
Putting aside all the hype for one moment though, MEN’s performance this evening was a little bit disappointing, lacking the raw vitriol that seemed to inspire Le Tigre’s experimental disco punk. It wouldn’t be fair to be base disappointment purely on comparisons to Le Tigre though, the angular guitars and riot grrl sensibilities still infuse their pop harmonies but it just wasn’t as playful or contagious as I had expected.
After worrying the crowd would thin out when MEN were finished, it seemed to have doubled in size by the time the London based five-piece Echo Lake came around. Oozing much more confidence than they had a little over two weeks ago at the Lexington, the young purveyors of ambient dream pop generate a subtly infectious soundscape that softly drifts forth from the speakers. The delicate and tentative lullabies of ‘In Dreams’ and ‘Everything is Real’ are drenched in hazy feedback, and ghostly vocals which do unfortunately seem to get lost this evening a bit more than perhaps they should.
The end of their set sees them descend into the most incredible instrumental, as the bassist howls, the drums pound and the blistering guitar hook rings out over a cheering crowd. If this is how much they have transformed as a live act in such a short time I look forward to their next performance almost as much as I am looking forward to this evenings next performers.
As they take to the cozy stage at the back of the room, Museum of Bellas Artes look decidedly nervous but as their blissfully contagious melodies begin to filter through the tension eases and they comfortably settle into their set. Highlights this evening definitely include an extended version of their 1964 Sapphires cover ‘Who Do You Love’, as crunching beats and sun-kissed rhythms swirl around ethereal, languid vocals and melancholic lyrics. Hand-claps and hazy ambient sounds ebb back and forth whilst the pure, stunning unadulterated pop of ‘Days Ahead’ sees the entire crowd begin to move. The gently infectious vocal harmonies of ‘Watch The Glow’ soar above the building cyclic rhythm in a near perfect blend of disco and lo-fi electronica: proving the Scandinavians really have the understated pop genre down.
With flourishes of dream pop, the wispy elegance of Museum of Bellas Artes disco inspired shoegaze is mesmerizing. And with their debut EP out today, I look forward to seeing the band with a few more live shows under their belt having, hopefully, fully shaken off the air of nerves that hangs over tonight’s performance, but by no means overshadows it.