Showcasing recent album Astro Tough, Evangeline Ling and David Wrench perceptively read aloud the foibles of this new world in a beautiful cadence all of their own
On the day that the world watched Russia finally descend into madness again and launch military attacks on the populace of Kyiv, it takes some chutzpah to play Telex’s cult 1979 hit Moskow Disko as a warm up to a gig, but fuck it, the Komedia’s in house DJ is going for it. That verse with the lyric that goes “New music has made its way, Automatic rhythms play, Invading the world around, Electronic dancing sound” is eerily prescient and perhaps a little too close to the bone for a night meant for escapism.
Perhaps it’s the shock of the messy and complicated state of the union that forces glorious support act and breakout star Oneda (pronounced Wanda as in the time and space ripping Scarlet Witch) to pull up a chair and rest mid flow on her first rhyme. Spitting out red hot verses about growing up othered in Nigeria and demanding the removal of our restrictive minimum wage, whilst singlehandedly orchestrating a feminist uprising, she’s the true sound of our put upon youth expected to change a world rigged against them through intergenerational entitlement and capitalistic greed, and definitely not some stage school wannabe ragamuffin. She draws the swollen crowd out from catatonic delirium with riotously manic call and response singalongs and blinged out, bordering on maximalist, drum and bass infused hip hop.
Talking of aristocratic backgrounds, it’s an understatement to say that Evangeline Ling’s voice can sound a little bit posh now and then. The way the audiobooks vocalist manages to make the word road rhyme with turd, on opener The Doll, indicates she must have had more than a few Heinekens before she took to the stage, if you know what we mean. That vocal register has more plum in it than you’d expect to find in a thousand winter crumbles. She makes Joanna Lumley’s charismatic drawl sound like Eliza Doolittle before that infamous glow up.
Her colleague David Wrench meanwhile huddles protectively over his beloved analogue synth, a dragon keeping a watchful eye over the gold, those long albino white locks giving him a suspicious air of Rick Wakeman at his most progressive, a wizard pondering The Orb. On occasion through the evening he’ll tentatively step away from the keys and strap on his guitar like a weapon, taking aim at the ecstatically writhing bodies before him, but his heart stays adrift on the dance floor of his mind.
That first track, about the desperate search for a young girl’s lost play thing and the apathetic response from the superiors around her, not only opens tonight’s performance but is the introductory number on the duo’s recent album Astro Tough, which they’re here to share with us almost chronologically. Reminiscent of the way DNA reconfigured Suzanne Vega’s observational poeme d’urbane Tom’s Diner, laced with class fuelled poignancy, into a chart friendly house banger way back when, it’s an indicator of why the crowd adores the idiosyncratic pair.
The pervasive mimicry of social mores double down on tracks like The English Manipulator, with its humorous critiques of tedious conmen who don’t know the differences between Monet and Manet, the upper class aphorisms swelling from a whisper to a shout. Simmering beneath the lyrics, which remain open to interpretation, sophisticated rhythms interact in unpredictable ways. There’s a swirling acid house psychedelic number called Blue Tits; it’s definitely not about the beloved birds, but instead it critiques morbidly libidinous male hideousness, and the frantic confusion of live highlight Driven By Beef recalls The Fall when they dropped guitars and discovered the joys of raving.
Possessing a canny understanding of how to meld existential anxieties and provocative graphic impulses into something friction-free, unpretentious and evocative, audiobooks perceptively read aloud the foibles of this new world in a beautiful cadence all of their own.