There is that ancient thought experiment: If a band doesn’t have a SoundCloud or Bandcamp page, does it still make a sound? I riddle myself this as four-piece Engine take to the stage to open the evening, without so much as a Twitter page to prove their existence. Their music is noisy, but psychedelic too, with a superficial resemblance to Peace, perhaps. I overhear someone in the crowd say that this is one of Engine’s first gigs together as a band. Despite not having quite found their sound, they are definitely making one, and so the answer to the question is yes, and there’s something quite exciting about watching a band you know can’t be relived through MP3 later. I strain to fully commit to memory their fiddly bass parts, fast-paced drums and soaring chorus of ‘I must be getting old’.
Engine are followed by Death Rattle – dark electro perfectly set against Nation of Shopkeepers’ stage. One half is suited, chiseled and bearded like a Faustian drummer, and the other is dressed in black, with an eclipsing stare that she manages to hold with each member of the audience for an uncomfortably long time. Well-placed floor lights cast amplified shadows of the pair on to the red velvet stage curtain behind, like a bewitching, distorted puppet show.
Much like the shadows, their music feels a little elusive, a little distant, like if you reached out to grab it, it wouldn’t actually be there. Perhaps it’s a different, more confrontational performance when there’s a real drum kit, as opposed to the mostly electric one they use tonight, but in this intimate setting, it works well. It’s perfect gloom pop, with elements of Purity Ring, but tighter, more industrial. Death Rattle are certainly the ones casting the spell, not being cast upon.
Leeds four-piece Disraeli Gears take to the stage, in front of a full room. They open with “Back of my Eyes” and the crowd immediately manages to take the brooding, middle-child sulkiness of their songs and turn it in to a chant. Considering the band have yet to release so much as an EP, it’s testament to Leeds’ thriving music scene, artists and spectators alike.
Disraeli Gears sing songs about admitting to your mother that you sold your lungs (‘who needs breathing anyway?’) and about undressing by taking the skin from your bones. It’s vulnerable but potent too. Lead singer Teia Fregona has an astonishing control over the volume of her own voice; one line of a song can oscillate several times between a wail and a whisper. It becomes quite hypnotic, broken only when she pauses to allow the guitars to crash down around her.
Surprised by the crowd’s demand for an encore, they finished with “Skeleton” and admit that they’ve now played their entire catalogue of songs. Nonetheless, they debuted a new song earlier, so one can only hope an EP or album lies in the not to distant future. The crowd tonight has certainly proved it’d be in demand.By Alice Lawrence