100% Silk Showcase @ Nice N' Sleazy, 7 June
Los Angeles label 100% Silk are key players in the new wave of synth music currently sweeping the hipsterverse, and tonight's showcase gig sets out to demonstrate the effectiveness of their delectably sleazy/beautiful brand of dance music.
Maria Minerva kicks off proceedings with a set that relies heavily on pre-made beats and synths, abandoning her laptop and MIDI controllers to dance on stage with a mic fed through some heavy reverb and distortion. The effect is somewhat underwhelming, with not much imagination on show in either the music – taking in hints of disco, Italo, 90s eurodance and R&B – or the frequently off-key vocals. A misjudged cover of the Spice Girls 2 Become 1 fails to inspire, although the crowd seem to enjoy the nostalgic vibes.
The retro-abuse of 90s dance continues with Ital's set. Screaming the lyrics of Corona's idiotic Rhythm Of The Night over harsh, beatless synths, he quickly switches up into analogue-electronic heaviness, mercilessly pounding out chunky electro synth lines, distorted Chi-house claps and fat, sonorous 808 drums while dancing like a one-off man-mental. The new synth scene can be seen as a revivalist movement, often relying on hardware over soft synths, and frequently referencing mainstream pop from the 80s and 90s, putting it through heavy distortion and depthless reverb. Ital pitches his set perfectly, balancing ironic bass-thievery with upfront, dancefloor-destroying energy.
The highlight of the night is a truly original set of deep, laidback electro from male-female duo Innergaze, who trade harmonised vocoder vocals and building grooves over hypnotic, improvised synth lines and squelchy 303 bass. It's a captivating performance, and has the unpredictability and depth of a fully-realised live stage show, at times recalling another male-female synth duo, Xeno & Oaklander. Innergaze anchor the night, delivering the most accomplished performance, completely free of ironic musical nudges and winks.
Headliners LA Vampires bring back the heavy Italo influence, playing as a three-piece, with Amanda Brown upfront on vocals. It's a lo-fi house take on the 100% Silk sound, with Brown's whispered refrain of "the freedom, the ecstasy" recalling early Balearic vocal dance tracks. It's enjoyable, but somewhat wispy and insubstantial compared to Innergaze's scintillating set. Over all, there's just a touch too much retro and not enough impro on show tonight to truly impress, but Brown and crew certainly leave the crowd blissed-out and smiling.