Synthpop is cool again! Tonight, Glasgow receives two international newer musicians in the genre who are quickly ascending the subterranean. Despite broadly attaching themselves to this label, these two acts are completely different in almost every way, a good showcase for the flexibility of the genre and the innovation it allows.
One could argue that musicians these days are so fixated on cultivating a serious brand and performance that you have to wonder if they are actually having fun, as opposed to appearing too cool for school. This is certainly not the case with self-described synth cowboys Body of Light, the only support for tonight. Coming all the way from Arizona, this is the first time brothers Alexander and Andrew Jarson are playing Scotland. The pair waste no time setting out blueprints. They deliver catchy and luscious synthpop, with vocalist Alexander phenomenally dancing with unlimited energy for the entire set, backed by Andrew on synths.
This year the Americans released new album ‘Time To Kill’ and the vast majority of the setlist is generated from it. The compositions are bold and forward yet contain a strain of sinister in its genealogy. There are influences of new wave, goth rock and techno at play and the crystal clear sound of Nice ‘n’ Sleazy is a fantastic gift. The title track, ‘Fear’ and ‘Dangerous’ are fantastic adverts for their new release and the crowd’s response is consistently positive. Andrew’s colourful stage presence effortlessly has sizeable chunks of the venue grooving; the entirety of this compact venue is having fun. The final track is the delectable and urgent ‘Tremble’ from their debut album ‘Let Me Go’. At only half an hour, this set is far too brief. Judging by the response, Body of Light need to return to Glasgow with a lengthier set – ideally, sooner rather than later!
Nice ‘n’ Sleazy is significantly busier when headliners Kælan Mikla take the stage bedecked in black thin dresses. This three-piece from Iceland take synthpop and imbue it with moody and otherworldly tones. Contrasting to Body of Light’s dance moves, Kælan Mikla’s show feels more ritualistic and mystical. Darkwave, post-punk and alternative rock have left clear fingerprints here, forging cold notes with a broad range of vocal styles, all piercing and haunting. The lion’s share of the setlist comes from last year’s album ‘Nótt Eftir Nótt’, with the band getting particularly stuck into transcendental tracks such as ‘Draumadís’, ‘Gandreið’, ‘Skuggadans’ and ‘Næturblóm’. These songs make you want to run barefoot through a frozen field at dawn. Creatively, synthesisers frequently veer into sci-fi tones and the muscular bass is so unabashedly goth, propelling each hymn through the night in the absence of guitar. The venue’s sound remains as merciful as it was for the support, each note deliciously audible, much to the audience’s delight.
The band’s eponymous debut album is revisited with ‘Kalt’ and ‘Glimmer og Aska’ being particular treats for a damp Autumn twilight. The latter is actually the closing number and Kælan Mikla leave the stage, only to return for a much appreciated encore of ‘Óráð. This features atmospheric as well as complex synth work, extremely evocative. The trio’s stage presence is humbling and sweet, reflecting the youthful vigour of their music. This was a fantastic night. The only issue is that this should have taken place in a larger venue with far more attendees. Synthpop is en vogue again but no soul sounds like Kælan Mikla.
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