In Hackney’s sparkling, glittery former trade hall known as MOTH Club, a hazy, lost night of indie music headlined by Canadian outfit DOOMSQUAD showed that style can give you many things, but without substance, you can’t hold onto it for very long. A mid-size audience in varying levels of drunken debauchery witnessed something that felt a little like Madchester and a little like an ancient ritual, with varying levels of success.
DOOMSQUAD’s Bella Union housemates Desert Sound Colony set the scene as the support act; with a thumping presentation of retro pop-rock, the Londoners blew away any cobweb from any corner, making a sound bigger than the MOTH could necessarily handle. Looking aloof and even slightly confrontational, the songs nevertheless carried a memorable quality to them. Whether it was the swirling electronic haze, the funk-infused disco beat or the reinforcement in the form of the muscly guitars, the set had a direction and mood that brought to mind an up-to-date Happy Mondays, though with less swagger.
Toronto’s DOOMSQUAD then made their way languorously to the stage, 30 minutes late, clad in tribal facepaint and with an air of mystique to them. In contrast to the support, they brought a supreme theatricality to their performance - three members of the band took on the role of drum banger for the opening to the set, immediately establishing a ritualistic hypnotism, and each member appeared intensely involved in whatever part they were playing.
Each DOOMSQUAD track was a slowly evolving epic, relying on echoes, beats and repetition to drug the listener into submission. Trevor Blumas’ onstage persona switched between utter stillness to frantic bouncing, while his vocal performance similarly combined light utterances with pained howls. This mode of dance music mixed with ceremonial imagery always worked best when introducing random elements of surprise – when the three vocalists sang together it was brilliantly emphatic, the introduction of a flute added a more traditional sound to the fray, and the moment when one performer leapt offstage to join the crowd was the highpoint of the night in terms of drama.
Too often, though, the music would drag with little or no change, and unlike the act that preceded them, there felt like a lack of direction in individual tracks. In the world of hypnotic dance music, this shouldn’t be an issue, but there were too few layers to keep an audience member entranced for very long. With much of the material, it felt like the sensation of waking up halfway through a dream after being lost in the tapestry DOOMSQUAD had created. While each creation appeared mythical and shimmering on surface value, there were few rewards for people listening intently to the music, other than the monotony of a never-ending beat.
With some definition on one hand, and a huge dollop of bravado on another, this was a night of “almost, but not quite”. With some work from both bands, you feel as though they could both be really on to something great, but for now, in a slightly stuffy hall in Hackney, you couldn’t help but feel a little short-changed.
View our photos from the night.