Live Review: Plant Plants at the Sebright Arms, London

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Neatly ordered clusters of immaculately attired, moustache encumbered young men and distant, cool young women greet this writer upon arrival at the Sebright Arms. A healthy step from the tube but pleasingly tidy, the venues robust, aged, upstairs décor is a splendid contrast to the dark, well-appointed, subterranean stage. With a sound system potent enough to powder the skeleton, the environment seems ideal to see Plant Plants.

An unlikely duo comprised of Stu’s ultra-deep, blood-thirsty beats and Howard’s clean guitar and sound proclamations, Plant Plants set up facing each other across tables groaning with effects. Opener “Break Softly” sets things out nicely, the pair settling into their stride. Tonight, the boys pull out a selection of material from their as-yet untitled album, due out next year (look out for a video release in the near future), and initial signs are extremely encouraging.

In all honesty, coming out just for the riff from “E.B” would have been worth it. Furrowed brows are teamed with broad grins as the groove unfolds, deliberate and precise in its shadowy grind. The colossal beats of “No Smiling” and fight-or-flight triggering bass massiveness of “Sick Bay” pulse with knowing, living humanity.

If one thing was to make a lasting impression, it’s that Plant Plants are a great deal more than an engaging two piece. The temptation in the modern age is to see electronic musicians as laptop-dwelling cop-outs, piggy-backing from one expensive plugin to the next. Here, nothing could be further from the truth-the music is being made, the sounds created, and not a Macbook in sight.

Howard sings these opaquely-worded modern hymns from the very bottom of his well. Hints of The Cure’s Robert Smith and the inimitable Mr. Curtis (Joy Division) slope through the crowd like a light-less wave; the true details of the dark events being recounted would cause unyielding sorrow. It is hard to imagine what has befallen the creators of these songs that would lead to such a grim countenance, but, interwoven with the edge-riding rhythms and the prickling energy of their performance, it seems the horror was worth it.

The crowd seem uncertain when to applaud, saving their rapturous response for the finale of set-closer “One To Adore”, which follows a particularly aggressive reading of instrumental bounce-factory “Bells”. To whit, save for the uncertain response of those in attendance, this was a brooding, emotive show.

Ace.

Review: Avante Black – Make A Mess

Originally published by Fortitude Magazine. http://www.fortitudemagazine.co.uk.

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Over the last ten years, my faith in music has been alternately eroded, bouyed, crippled, and rebuilt, as I watched the charts devolve into a revolting parody of the true cultural battleground that they were, even into the early 00’s.

However, following the collapse of the old industry, and the adaption of bands to new mediums, something fantastic happened; unless you were another boyband/girlband type or the flavour of the month, you were underground. Forcing bands to develop in the old ways, but to communicate with each other in a more direct and global manner, has yielded some great results, and so it is with Avante Black.

‘Make A Mess’ is a change of pace from this globally-fed outfit. Two Swedes, and Italian, and a London bloke on drums, Avante Black have produced a series of singles that made even jaded old me take notice. While songs like ‘Drug Money’ and ‘Imaginary Love’ are by turns informed by shoegaze, splinters of Joy Division, and what souds like a less-than-ideal fiscal circumstance, ‘Make A Mess’ feels more mature, full-figured, and direct. Ottilia’s voice is less sorrowful than previous efforts, especially ‘Drug Money’, and while there’s plenty of hints of shoegaze and that most apalling of epithets, dreampop, I believe Avante Black to be harder than that.

Beginning with electronics that immediately made me think of the Pet Shop Boys, ‘Make A Mess’ then decides to head to a righteous crossroads where the most serious aspects of the Cardigans, Unforgettable-Fire-era U2 and early Sneaker Pimps meet to discuss their extreme genuine-ness. So often with bands of this nature, much is made of the beautiful frontwoman, something exacerbated by videos and live performances being sexualized in some manner, but that is not the case here. I watched a live Sofar rendition of ‘Drug Money’, and it is my belief that the band genuinely and truly want to sound like this, something for which I have true respect. Ottilia both looks and sounds like she’s telling real stories, recounting events that truly took place, something that is in too short a supply in pop music.

There’s a dark edge to this single, which made me listen to it a number of times, with enough going on between the guitar and electro-bits to hear different things each time. I’ve got to give Avante Black props for balancing these two elements, so often at war, with poise and understanding, and for ensuring that neither is a lead instrument, which gives the song greater mass. While the band will no doubt be offered the opportunity to have their songs sell things like phones or perfume – such is the way in this time period – they are a proper band, no messing, and everything I’ve listened to so far firmly raises my thumbs in approval.

Top job.