Thursday, November 21, 2013

Lemaitre at Fabric, 20th November 2013

Daft Punk's 2001 album Discovery has a lot to answer for.  After 12 years the sound it pioneered continues to reverberate around the music industry, singlehandedly reviving the disco beats dormant since '78 and combining them with soaring synth lines and noodling electric guitar solos.  It's a winning recipe: upbeat pop with a pumping dance edge, music that works as well after midnight with a headful of stimulants as it does cycling miserably to work the following Monday morning.  

It's not really surprising that Lemaitre are so fun, after all, they are Norwegian.  If there's an area of the world more likely to put out consistently great pop music than Scandinavia I'm yet to find it.  Lemaitre are Ulrik Denizou Lund and Ketil Jansen, (though last night they played with third person about whom I can find out nothing).  Since forming in 2010 they've ridden a wave of online popularity, their third EP reaching #1 in the iTunes electronic albums chart, as well as amassing 56,000 followers on Facebook and becoming one of the most listened to artists on Soundcloud.

From the moment they take to the stage it's easy to see why people fall for them so easily. Scandinavian pop is irresistible, especially so when it's being played by three charismatic and happy guys..  The crowd reflects this happiness right back up at the stage, the audience a sea of smiles shining out from glistening, mildly sweaty faces.  The nature of the stage at Fabric means that there's no barrier separating band and audience, and the members frequently perch on the edge of the stage, exchanging conspiratorial smiles and matey fist-bumps with those in the front row.  

The band have gone to some effort to make a visually interesting stage show, setting up a polygonal spiky structure to project designs onto; kind of like a budget version of Etienne de Crecy's giant moving cube.  It's not really in the same ball-park as far as spectacle goes, but the polygon provides a much needed bit of scifi theatricality (even though someone inadvertently pulls the HDMI lead from the back of the projector towards the end of the gig.)

Despite the music staying firmly within the Discovery template, there's a pleasant bit of variety. Highlights are the piano and synth led Cut to Black, in which you hear echoes of the laid-back plinky-plonky minimalism of Metronomy or Royksopp. The melodies progress and overlap, instruments and vocals building into a sound that's both sincere and as light, fluffy and delicious as a well-made soufflĂ©.  

The chilled out crossroads between indie, pop and electronica is prime territory for a band to occupy: if you can please fans of all three genres you've got it made.  Lemaitre's three EPs relentlessly hammer this sweet spot, so it's a bit of a surprise that they can get so heavy live. As pleasant as the melodic numbers are, it's when Lemaitre rock the fuck out just after the long build-up; a half second of silence and them *boom* - shit goes bananas.  Perhaps in 2013 this is a bit played out, but dammit, it still does the business for me. 

These moments of primeval musical abandon are what Fabric is designed for.  Even on a work night with just two beers inside me I felt swept up in an ocean of energetic joy. As they reach the tipping point of a drop the light briefly dims and the band exchange a knowing glance.  As the bassline kicks in the strobes fire; crimson laser curtains hove down through the billowing dry ice; and as one body the shiny happy people bounce up and down, the floor imperceptibly flexing as a hundred Converse clad feet impact against it.

Lemaitre clearly enjoy the effect they're having on the crowd, the band all grins and smiles. Towards the end of the gig Ulrik, mic-in-hand, launches himself into the audience, jumping around with us while singing away at the top of his lungs.  Sure I've seen this kind of thing a thousand times before, but it never fails to put a smile on my face.  I moments like these you sense the warmth of emotion coming from the crowd; though all too often the lyrical content of the songs is beside the point most people seem to know the words, or let out a whoop of anticipation as they recognise the opening bars of a favourite song.

The most vexing thing about the night is a problem common to nearly all bands with a strong electronica/dance element: how much is live and how much is pre-recorded.  There are moments in the gig where the band surplus to requirements, the fiddling around with dials, keys and guitar having little obvious effect on what we're hearing.  The multi-instrument melodies make it difficult to discern who's doing what; causing a dislocating effect when someone stops playing the guitar and the music carries on with no clear change.  I get that it's not practical to recreate their sound live, but singing away to a backing track feels like an illusion of a musical performance rather than the real thing.

Fortunately this is easy to forget whilst you're in a hail of laser beams with the bass rattling the air in your lungs and bright lights flashing in your eyes.  The songs are solid, the band seems nice and the venue is top notch.  Sure they may be a bit derivative of Discovery sprinkled with bits of pieces of other mid-2000s-y electro, but when the music is this much fun who cares?  Lemaitre: a good band.

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