Ambient Light: IKON / Disjecta Membra / Sounds Like Winter - Live

IKON / Disjecta Membra / Sounds Like Winter: 5 February 2017

“On a hot humid night on a long weekend in the city, what better way to spend the nocturnal hours than in the bowels of the Whammy Bar listening to an array of delicious bands? The anticipation for this gig has been high, and fans were certainly dressed for the occasion; black lace, leather and oodles of eyeliner creating charmingly striking looks. 

What Whammy Bar lacks in facilities it makes up for in sheer atmosphere. There is something about the darkness; the square concrete pillars and the seating secreted around the edges of the venue itself that makes you feel completely at ease with your surroundings and all who you share it with. But most of all it is the closeness with which you can experience the bands that really makes Whammy Bar something special. You connect with each and every act on eye level, which can often leave you breathless with the utter exhilaration of it all.

First up for the night are Stars and the Underground, the solo project of Auckland based singer/songwriter John Mason, who many will recognise from his work with both Winterland and HUMANiSER. With influences such as The Mission, Killing Joke etc. Stars and the Underground were a perfect way to start off the night with brooding lyrics and underlying beats.

“We are Sounds like Winter and we are going to make music all over you!!”

Second act of the night, Sydney based Sounds Like Winter who recently released their full length album ‘Initiate’ hit the ground running with their wonderful opening track ‘Sanity is Calling’. The charismatic Ant Banister’s vocals send shivers of pleasure down the spine as he sings. Banister has been involved in the underground scene for well over 20 years and has previously referred to the band as having its roots stem from the post punk period of the late 70’s to early 80’s.

Andi Lennon instantly attracts the eye with his fabulous onstage persona, as he later stated, “people come to see a show – so put one on!” and Lennon certainly does that, his raw energy on stage is infectious. It was also fantastic to see a female drummer (Leticia Olhaberry) who while unfortunately due to the size of the stage is slightly hidden away at the back, still makes her presence well and truly felt regardless. Tommy Webbster with his endearing mop of hair and on point finger work makes up the four piece act for the night. Their set is interspersed with dry banter from Banister who is clearly enjoying himself. Banister has a wonderfully deep voice, reminiscent of vocalists such as Eldritch and Murphy. It is also clear that this is not his first rodeo, as he commands the stage and onlookers with little effort.

The audience are lapping up the electric set from Sounds like Winter whose songs address everything from society’s obsession with spending to religion and all those sinners and it is very obvious that the band have collected a few new fans tonight. Their set runs through a number of tracks off the aforementioned ‘Initiate’ album including the lascivious ‘The Boneman’, with a chorus that you will find yourself humming long after the show and well into the next few days. While Sounds Like Winter is still rather in its infancy (the band began as a collaboration, back in 2013) they have big plans and have no intention of slowing down anytime soon. Judging by this extraordinary live performance tonight, they have a bright future ahead of them.

To ensure that the audience remains in the zone so to speak, DJ Pennie Raven Black was on board spinning tracks in between the bands. And she obviously knew her music; as each track melded into the next, wide grins continued to break out on the audience’s faces as they recognised the opening notes of a favourite song that they could once again dance to. What an excellent choice to bind the acts of the night together.

If you are part of the dark/alternate rock/goth scene of New Zealand, you know exactly who Disjecta Membra is and will have not one but several personal favourite tracks. Founded in 1993 by Michel Rowland, and currently based in Wellington, the band has seen many a line-up change and hiatus’s during its career, yet each and every time Disjecta Membra have come back stronger and better than ever.

A testament to this is not only the loyal following that they have, but the fact that they have supported some of the biggest names in the goth/alternate rock scene including Mick Harvey (Birthday Party/Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds), Peter Murphy (Bauhaus) and most recently The Mission when they played at The Powerstation last year (and what a set that was!).

The current three piece – founding member Michel Rowland is accompanied by Kane Davey on guitar, Jaz Murphy on bass and a loyal drum machine – are beautifully understated when on stage, this is not a group that feels the need for theatrics as the music more than speaks for itself. Kane Davey’s haunting guitar playing on opening track ‘Far from the Chant of a Murmuring Sun’ is absolutely spellbinding, while crowd favourites such as ‘Madeleine! Madelaine!’ entice you to spin around the dance floor in free abandon. Michel has an exquisitely full-bodied voice which draws you in and invites you to stay awhile and listen to his tales. Later in the set Davey shows us that he is a man of many talents as he unleashes on a talk box, eliciting excited ‘whoops’ from the crowd.

‘The Infancy Gospels’ the title track from Disjecta Membra’s latest EP swaggers about the dance floor, Michel’s voice dropping at least another octave or two as he snarls into the microphone from under his leather hat. Even the bar staff are swaying their hips to this track full of sex and sin. A raucous cover of Boney M’s ‘Rasputin’ precedes the final track of Disjecta Membra’s set – the fast paced ‘Cauldron of Cerridwen’ which Michel dedicates to Clifford Ennis of IKON who are headlining this magical night. If you are not already familiar with Disjecta Membra’s work, then you are seriously lacking musical beauty in your life. Follow the links at the bottom of the review to discover for yourself their addictive powers!

IKON (hailing from Melbourne) holds the illustrious title of headliners tonight and the members of the preceding bands are just as excited to see them play as the audience members in attendance. With a career spanning over 25 years, the band has no shortage of material with which to enthral the audience. Officially renaming themselves IKON in 1991, the band is heavily influenced by the likes of both Joy Division and early New Order. The four members currently consist of Chris McCarter on vocals, Clifford Ennis on guitar, Dino Molinaro on Bass and David Burns on drums. The band has released ten albums as well as a number of EP’s and compilations.

They make for an imposing sight as they take their places on stage and launch into their first track of the night ‘Rise and Fall’ from their latest album ‘Everyone Everything Everywhere Ends’. IKON is again a band who has little movement on stage; however the piercing stare of lead vocalist McCarter is commanding, Ennis and Molinaro churning out hypnotic chords on either side of him as Burns beats out the rhythm to each of the tracks from behind.

Over the years IKON have gone from strength to strength, culminating in several appearances at festivals such as M’era Luna and Wave Gotik Treffen in the early 00’s, which saw them billed alongside bands such as The Sisters of Mercy, Soft Cell and London After Midnight. Throughout their career it has been noted that McCarters songwriting has continued to evolve with tracks such as ‘A Line on a Dark Day’ (which the audience were treated to a live version of tonight) being “named a semi-finalist” in an international songwriting competition.

The crowd are enthralled by the calibre of the act that they have the privilege to witness in such an intimate venue. IKON finishing their set with one of their biggest singles ‘Psychic Vampire’ much to the delight of their fans. After extremely enthusiastic demands for an encore, IKON returned to play one of their earliest tracks – “we don’t really play this live anymore” McCarter advises the fans – ‘Black Roses’ which immediately has everyone enthusiastically dancing and singing along to the chorus. Finishing with a wonderful cover of ‘Fall Apart’ by Death in June, IKON bid the audience goodnight, the baying of the crowd indicating their thorough enjoyment of what they have just observed.

And as DJ Pennie Raven Black serenaded us into the early hours of the morning, smiles abounded on the faces of each and every soul who had been fortunate enough to experience this almost ethereal night of music.

Be still my little black heart.”

– Sarah Kidd, Ambient Light