Live at Brudenell Social Club on Friday, 4th March 2011
First onto the Brudenell's stage are Plank! from Manchester, a 3-piece consisting of a drummer, a multitasking guitar and keyboardist and a bassist. They seem to be aiming for a 70s style prog / krautrock instrumental sound and I have to say it was a thoroughly enjoyable 30 minutes in the main. Good driving repetitive basslines, hints of Goblin in the synth chords and a good large old-fashioned heavy sound. Sadly there was barely any interaction with the audience but I can forgive them this and will be there again to watch next time they play over this side of the Pennines.
With Plank! taking their leave, the stage seems to be suddenly filled with young men sporting neatly done hair and sharp slim-fitting dark suits, beavering away setting up 4 banks of electronics and a multiplicity of cables. It's the second time I've seen Mirrors, they played at Oporto last year and it was enjoyable although a little underwhelming so I was looking forward to seeing them on the bigger stage and better soundsystem at the Brud. Their similarities to early OMD, Heaven 17, Ultravox and other 80s electronic music are undeniable and accusations of being derivative (along with Hurts but without the huge amounts of money that have been poured into backing them) have been bandied their way. So, the room is steadily filling, the projected backdrop comes alive, chords start and the singer has a little jerky Ian Curtis-style dance. The sound is a wall of beats and synth lines with a heavy deep bass throb throughout. The singer is maybe slightly weaker than he could be but he engages well with the crowd and by the time they finish with the 'Run run run, by the end you will come undone' of Lights and Offerings, they seem to have pretty much won over the audience. Mirrors show that electronic music can be warm instead of soul-less and they definitely have enough on their own merits to progress.
Touring their 4th album, Ventriloquizzing, Brighton's Fujiya & Miyagi have now been going for 11 years, are not a twosome and none of them are called Fujiya or Miyagi. Not having seen them live before, I expected them, like Mirrors, to be armed with banks of keyboards and it was a pleasant surprise to see a drumkit, bass and guitar. The bass gives them a much fuller sound than on the record, and definitely in a good way with a very jazzy sound on the first track, 'Minestrone', and the hypnotic breathy vocals deadpanned in F&M's usual way. The latest album is touch more experimental than the more dancier earlier ones and the tracks from it don't get quite as good a reception from the crowd, perhaps due to lack of
familiarity or maybe because they are just slightly less 'obvious'. However 'Sixteen Shades Of Black And Blue' with its hint of Diana Ross's 'Chain Reaction' gets a deservedly excellent reception. There's another couple of tracks from the new album (apologies for not knowing the titles) then into a pretty rousing (for F&M) version of 'Knickerbocker' bringing a bit more urgency into the proceedings, along with 'Collarbone' with its slowly building repetition of a kids' nursery rhyme. They up the tempo for the last section of the gig, I particularly enjoyed the very bouncy 'Tinsel and Glitter' and then they're off the stage, with those who know their back catalogue waiting impatiently for them to come back on to do 'Ankle Injuries' as the encore, which inevitably happens. However it was well worth waiting for, they turn it into an extended 10 minute (or so) jam and even though the rest of the gig was thoroughly enjoyable, there's nowt like saving the best for last.