Review: Akira Presents… Live @ Catch-22, London, (09/02/05)

[url=http://www.akiraband.com] Akira [/url] (the band; not to be confused with Akira the Don) have been frequent visitors to this site so it was good to finally get to meet and see them live. The fact that personal faves [url=http://www.querelle.com] Querelle [/url] were playing too was an added bonus.

Catch-22 is one of a number of interesting little venues (like Jaguar Shoes and On the Rocks) on the bottom end of Kingsland Road, sitting in that grey area between the cool of Hoxton Sq and the dubious reputation of Hackney, a mere five minutes from Old Street tube. Thankfully, this didn’t put the punters off and the small narrow 1st floor venue is fairly heaving, impressive for a midweeker.

Gbenga from Akira tells me that they prefer to open the evening with solo or quieter act to get things burning, though there have been a few hiccups in the smooth running of sound checks, so [i] Bethia Beadman [/i] doesn’t get on stage until about 9pm. She’s got a Les Paul and a cluster of little effects pedals and plays a folk-tinged set that reminds me pleasingly of [url=http://www.epitonic.com/artists/catpower.html] Cat Power [/url] in her more haunting moments. She’s apparently going to get a band together who will ‘rock’, so it’ll be interesting to hear that. (I think she said she needed a bassist…)

Querelle come on next and blow us away. Valentina is probably the best and sexiest thing on drums you’ve seen in a long, while singer/guitarist Gypsy and bassist Antokio crash around the stage, creating just the right levels of noise, aided by a bunch of effects pedals. The sound is somewhat post-punk, loud and pithy, with great melodies and inventive rhythms. They’re recording a mini-album at the moment and given the performance here it should be bloody brilliant.

Akira is a three-piece who I would at liken to a post-punk album from [i]A Silver Mt. Zion[/i], if such a thing existed. Both Gbenga on bass and Joel on guitar have a raft of effects pedals, but possibly the most interesting aspect is how the bass is really the lead instrument here, Gbenga generally playing the main motif with single notes or chords, while Joel rolls textures and noises over the top, jumping around the stage. Sarah’s drums back this up superbly, her rhythms changing as required, keeping up the ideas and holding the band together when bass and guitar seem to be vying to find who can play the most outlandish noise. This isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you like your stuff different then Akira’s for you. Toward the end of the set they throw in a semi-quiet little come-down song to prove their range.

[url=http://www.theexploitsofelaine.co.uk] The Exploits of Elaine [/url] come on very late through no fault of their own, so unfortunately I only catch 3 or 4 tunes before I have to run, but they’re good ones. Any band with keyboards has to work hard against my instinctive prejudice, born of an 80s childhood, and The Exploits do a good job. They sound somewhere around [i]Happy Songs…[/i] era Mogwai, though their instrumentals are based around a more hip-hop influenced drum style and a strong keyboard/guitar/guitar interaction. I enjoyed what I heard and I’d also point out their website http://www.theexploitsofelaine.co.uk is particularly interesting in design.

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