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Electrelane
By Erik Jansma
The UK has an endless supply of bands, for any taste of music. The amount is so big, that any new band seems to be just another Brit-pop or Brit-rock exponent, repeating their predecessors and adding their own little twist. Ever renewing and evolving, the UK music scene hardly ever offers real surprises: you mostly have it heard before in some form. But sometimes, you will find bands that allow themselves to be influenced without copying. Electrelane is such a band. Sure, you will find whiffs of The Cure, Blur, Sonic Youth, Janis Joplin, Saint Etienne, and Velvet Underground, but Electrelane sounds like neither of them. They do their own thing and don’t seem to care about the rest of the world. What’s more, the ladies do not limit their love for experiments to studio sessions but take it on the road and on stage, with remarkable results.

On stage in Ikra, Electrelane has a difficult start. The microphone is not on during the first song, too loud in the second and other instruments are adjusted during the first four or five songs. But this is tuning to perfection, pure perfection!

Yes, it was that good. And here’s why.

First of all, drummer Emma Gaze, doesn’t have any “clicks” – the little earphone that many drummers use to keep a steady beat and avoid speeding up too much. The countless changes in rhythm would render such a device useless anyway, but she simply doesn’t need one. Ros Murray has the seemingly unrewarding task of playing bass and adds the necessary structure to the songs. Centred on stage, she is where she should be, keeping the others together. Verity Susman switches between vocals, keyboard, guitar and saxophone. These instruments decide upon the mood and overall sound of the songs, which are all very different. The sheer ease with which she seems to play is impressive. Most impressive though is Mia Clarke on guitar. She uses plectrum, fingers, feet and even her whole body as she hangs over the speaker to send some feedback noise into the room. Most of the time, though, she is standing, with her eyes closed, in trance, playing with unbelievable virtuosity. Whether it’s scraping along the strings with the pick, making the guitar ‘talk’ by plucking with her fingers or just strumming, she produces sounds previously unknown to this instrument.

The band radiates enthusiasm, energy, concentration, love for their instruments and hours of practice, practice and practice. There are no gimmicks, no added show elements, just music that is being played exceptionally well. The elaborations on the songs resemble on-stage experiments that seemed to have gone after the 1970s. The Ikra crowd gets the point and people freak out dancing or just witness the concert in awe. This time, there is no begging for just an encore, we all beg the band to please play the whole set again. Electrelane answers this ridiculous request with a lengthy encore after which they call it a night, have a short break and soon after can be found checking up on the goodies sale and looking after the clearing up on stage. Their appearance is so down-to-earth that they seem unaware of the fact that they just put down the best musical performance in Moscow so far this season.

14.06.06
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