Valhalla, Wellington, 3 February 2017:
“Last night three Australasian dark, post-punk/gothic rock bands brought the darkness to Wellington – just as the clouds outside were abating. After yet another shocking week of weather bombs the city was ready for some warmth and stability. But down in a small dark club, fashioned around the legendary Norse ‘Hall of the Slain”, fans of the black were gathering for their own summer of discontent.
The bill promised something of a goth-fest with Melbourne’s IKON (now celebrating their 25th years), Sydney based Sounds Like Winter and local act (and organisers) Disjecta Membra, who recently supported The Mission when they toured New Zealand. The gig was also the launch of a special collaborative CD (Songs to Scattered Symbols).
A small but dedicated crowd found space on the floor to take in the night’s event, with many glammed up with makeup and appropriate clothing. One couple had really gone to town – he with white face paint, black eyes, dark long hair and bondage coat; she dressed in her own unique interpretation of Frankenstein’s bride. An excellent effort. There was also a collection of assorted individuals with dark tattoos, ming-beards, boots, buckles, long coats, Adams Family hairdos -wildly teased teased, and dog collars. These people were here for the ‘night’.
First up was Disjecta Membra, who have been going now since 1993. With slow, brooding songs of dejection, sadness and toil mixed with underworld mythology they start the evening off with a gentle sway.
Over the years, the band have toured with UK goth legends The Mission and Peter Murphy, and played support to post-punk icons including Peter Hook (Joy Division/New Order), Mick Harvey (Nick Cave/The Birthday Party, PJ Harvey) and Death In June. As a result, vocalist Michael Rowland has developed a dark, growling style that emulates his heroes.
They start slow building the tension with Murmuring Sun, Lilitu and Cernunnos which all have elements of Bauhaus and Swans. Their most impressive song, The Infancy Gospels calls to mind early Nick Cave mixed with Johnny Cash – the image reinforced by Rowland’s intense stare and wide brimmed hat. Swirling and threatening Madeleine Madelaine is beautifully structured around the early elements of 80’s synth bands like Icehouse but more desperate. Rowland’s voice even takes on the hue of a young Iva Davies.
Remixed by AMY_cin this is one of the highlights that appears on the tour CD. Comfortable to hide in the shadows long-time members Kane Davey (guitars, vocals) and Jaz Murphy (bass) provide the engine room, standing staunchly, concentrating on their jobs intensely.
The band’s latter-day releases have proven their strongest yet and you definitely get a sense that this is a act that’s improving with every performance. As a three piece, they rely on the support of their own Dr Avalanche, a laptop which provides a dirge of funereal beats over which they play guitars and bass. Boneman has a real legendary graveyard feel, like another of Cave’s murder ballads and tales of woe. But the surprise finish is a very menacing cover of Boney M’s Rasputin (which also appears on the CD), which has stripped away all the cheer and buoyancy of the original disco hit and is laid out bare like a post-Brecht narration.
Returning to New Zealand Sydney-siders Sounds Like Winter have a more rock’n’goth approach. Lead singer Ant Banister casts a punk presence in a classic sleeveless shirt with a Japanese torpedo flag on the back. His intense white eyed stare and severe haircut make him more menancing.
SLW show their experience having been involved in Australia’s post-punk and new wave scene in some form for many decades. Formed in 1993 this four piece originally made synth-driven melodic darkwave. Led form the start guitar duo Andi Lennon and Tommy Webster (both from ex-Sydney deathrock/dark punk band Howl) they’ve evolved over the years towards dark, angular, guitar-driven post-punk. Some of which comes out tonight with singles Sanity Is Calling and Ishmael’s Bones.
They also do Blood Red (which appears on the CD) which is perfect early 80’s Bauhaus held together by a pulsing beat, fast jangling guitars and a spitting drum beat. But the highlight of their set is the ranting grinder Life of The Just, which totally wraps you in a cloak of evil morality. This is another one from the recording, although a more angsty urgent version than the Ian Curtis styled original, with more throbbing intensity – provided again by bassist Jamie Pajuczok and drummer Leticia Olhaberry – the song seems so much more poignant in this Trump-infested political environment.
Returning after an 11 absence, Melbourne’s own gothfathers, IKON, complete the night. Started in 1991, their sound was originally influenced by Joy Division and The Sisters of Mercy. The band’s recorded output has been both prolific and widely sought after, spanning ten studio albums; more than thirty singles and EPs; countless one-off compilation tracks and a growing number of retrospectives and special edition vinyl and box-set reissues of archival material.
Some of IKON’s most identifiable songs include the popular singles Echoes of Silence (1994), Subversion(1998) – which is covered by Disjecta Membra, and was also played tonight – the hilariously camp Psychic Vampire (2004) and Stolen (2014) to name but a few.
Their first offering from the CD, The Silence is Calling, is firmly structured around Andrew Eldrich’s dark juggernaut. Dressed in a black leather dress jacket guitarist/vocalist Chris McCarter’s has a quiet presence. His vocal range moves from dark intensity to sweeter moments like the (almost) love song Key To The Stars. This song has elements of Placebo and Cocteau Twins in its melody and is one more highlight on the CD and the night.
Backed by Dino Molinaro (bass), alongside long-time collaborators Clifford Ennis (vocals, guitar) and David Burns (drums) they put in a solid set of originals based on material firmly rooted in the synth-goth era of the 1980’s. Their set also includes their own Subversion, delivered more like a Mission track plus other staples from their long career.
This was one of two gigs for IKON on this little tour, the second being at Whammy! Bar in Auckland on Sunday February 5th. Each of the three bands had their own unique take on the genre, melding years of listening with their own experiences and passions. 80’s synth has been well appropriated by all the new bands – Franz Ferdinand comes to mind – so it’s somewhat refreshing to see how the new ‘third wave’ of goth-rock are progressing. Although the crowd was small tonight, the support for tourists IKON and Sounds Like Winter (as well as hosts Disjecta Membra) was solid so I think word of mouth will spread, letting all know what they missed and why these guys should consider another plane ride over the ditch in the not too distant future.”
– Tim Gruar, The 13th Floor