This was a shot in the dark.
I’d been fancying a gig for a while and the Islington Assembly Hall is just down the road from us. It is one of my favourite venues (check out my review of Eska last year) – good sound, great sightlines pretty much anywhere plus I can be home within twenty minutes. My ageing legs can handle a couple of hours in N2 rather than a trek to somewhere like Brixton or Hammersmith or trying to find a decent viewing spot at Koko in Camden. The Assembly Hall appear to have realised that they’ve got an appealing venue on their hands. The quantity and quality of bookings have improved and their website has been given a makeover from the previous clunky version.
Islington Assembly Hall is part of the town hall complex. Opened in the 30s, it was used for 50 years for functions, tea dances, weddings and the like. It closed in the 80s and was functioned as a store room with the lobby used as the local museum. The Council set up a fund raising drive in 2009 and a year later it was opened. The art deco glory was retained and the hall is increasingly prominent in the North London gig scene, competing with the equally wonderful Union Chapel, almost immediately next door.
I also fancied seeing someone that I knew pretty much nothing about – a throwback from the old days of just jumping on the bus into Dudley, Wolverhampton and Liverpool and turning up at a venue. The fact that the artist was from the electronica end of the spectrum was a bonus. Whilst I regularly was the likes of the Chemical Brothers, Orbital and Underworld back in the day and I listen to a fair bit of this type of music at home, it had been a while since I experienced it live. So when I saw that the Assembly Hall was hosting Trentemøller on a Sunday evening, I thought “why not?”
Anders Trentemøller is a Danish electronic musician. He has made a handful of LPs, remixed some big name acts (Moby, Depeche Mode, Franz Ferdinand amongst others) and DJ-ed at some mega festivals such as Coachella. I found this on line which is his go at Bruce Springsteen’s “State Trooper”. I like the way he builds upon the drama which is already there in one of Bruce’s raw tracks from the wonderful “Nebraska” LP.
Trentemøller has just released his latest LP “Fixion” (pronounced fiction as opposed to fix-eon), his first in 3 years. The LP features Jehnny Beth of Savages as a guest vocalist. There is a special place in hell for Savages. I spent one of the most miserable 45 minutes I can remember watching them support The Stooges at the Royal Festival Hall. Dark and derivative, it comes to something when Iggy’s pals are the light at the end of the tunnel. Live, the vocals were provided by fellow Dane, Marie Fisker. I didn’t miss Jehnny Beth’s hectoring.
I went with few expectations. I had heard some of Anders’ music and quite enjoyed it. I was hoping that the live experience, the sense of communion common to much electronica played live, would take it up a notch. At some points, it felt that the evening was about to catch fire but never quite did. The music was notionally up my street, heavily referencing New Order, Joy Division, The Cure etc. It was skillfully performed with a traditional guitar/bass/drums/keyboards line up. Maybe it was the Sunday night that was preventing the devil may care attitude emerging but it felt like an indie version of Faithless to me – enjoyable but not pushing any boundaries. There was obviously a deep quality to what was being performed, the songs were well put together and there was sufficient variety to mostly hold the neutral’s attention.
It was all too polite for me though, too well mannered. Any jagged angles had been well honed. The mood being purveyed was darkness but this felt like a Hollywood kind of darkness. I could well imagine Michael Mann using some this music as background in a night club scene, not quite edgy enough for Nicholas Winding Refn but too out there for Michael Bay. The melodies played on a bass a la Peter Hook sounded familiar and perhaps it was my age but the chilly synthesiser sounds were more warmly familiar.
The sound was, as ever at the Assembly Hall, superb. It was faultlessly performed. There just wasn’t much danger on offer.
If Trentemøller were next up when I was watching a festival then I would stick around. I would imagine in the right setting the live experience would take flight.
I just needed the darkness on the edge of town.