Electronic Beats hit the Slovakian capital of Bratislava with Hurts, James Pants, Agoria, and Youthkills for a sold-out night of diverse new sounds. The EB team reports from on site. Title image of Hurts by Martina Mlcuchova.
On the outskirts of the Bratislava, long after the baroque architecture has faded into industrial wasteland, squats the Refinery Gallery. As you’d expect from an ex-oil refinery, the post-industrial heft of the venue demands performers to upscale their sound lest they get lost amidst the space. London band Youthkills are more than happy to oblige with a set of reference-heavy radio rock. If you can detect some ’80s DNA in their sound, well, that isn’t just metaphorical—they’re the respected progeny of Duran Duran’s two Taylors. They look like Jesus and Mary Chain with undercuts—you can practically hear the creak of leather jacket as James Taylor lopes towards a guitar pedal, well, if there wasn’t a seismic updraft of ringing U2 guitars and keening choruses.
Youthkills, by Martina Mlcuchova
While the crowd seemed slightly skeptical of James Pants’ one-man percussion/vocals/production/DJ band set up at first, it didn’t take him long to win them over. What started as a half-full room looking to the stage questioningly ended with a full floor and hands in the air. His combination of an amazing selection, full of groovy obscurities, plus his own productions topped by a fervent, but endearing stage presence meant that his set travelled from boogie to bhangra beats, through all the best twists in between, but always brought the party.
James Pants, by Stanislava Karellova
There was always a sense of fake it until you make it with Hurts, who Youthkills have no doubt studied as a textbook case of narrative pop music the right (wrong?) side of epic.Theo’s theatrical flourishes of the mike stand, the odd well-timed hair sweep, you get a sense it was practiced the bathroom mirror long before they ever had a paying audience. Now, by God, they’ve made it. Stalking the lip of the stage, dressed in his uniform black jacket and jackboots, Theo picks out female audience members to grace with a wink, a smile, a hand outstretched, before falling to his knees in time with the scree of a particularly toothy synth. Indeed the rougher grain of tracks like “Exile” and “The Road” offer timely reprieve from the brazen emoting: Now Adam Anderson looking as comfortable behind a guitar as the Modernist black veneered piano, whereas “Sandman”’s verses break with the fulsome, organic sound altogether to experiment with Timbaland style production. If this unchecked rawk posturing feels anachronistic—particularly coming from a band whose slickly produced pop has as much in common with Take That as Depeche Mode—that’s kind of the point. The crowd are wildly enthusiastic, holding up banners of thinly disguised innuendo (“dessert?”) leading one to surmise that we still need to elect rock star avatars to express our primitive, uncouth desires, can’t be repressed or sublimated, and we’re gifted a tableau of an excellently dressed man, his pomaded hair stylishly mussed, making a pantomime of smashing a mic stand.
Agoria, by Stanislava Karellova
Or perhaps we’d all be a little less uptight if life was one long Agoria set. For tonight’s show he presents Forms, a driving house and techno set accompanied by visuals triggered on the fly. The visual vernacular is familiar, time-lapse footage of crowds, CAD-abstraction, the odd visual pun (a guy working in a office cubicle while dropping “Work” by Masters at Work). Of course, this being Agoria, it’s the kind of set that should be peak-time, and even at 3am the remaining people on the dancefloor look unwilling to relinquish their position. Don’t worry Bratislava, we’ll be back.~
photo by by Stanislava Karellova