Live Music + Gig Reviews

Demdike Stare @ Lexington, London

17 June 2011

Ahead of headliners Demdike Stare, the timing was perfect for Graham Dowdell’s nostalgic Gagarin project to play a spellbinding set. Fifty years ago his namesake became the first man to fly in space. Taking inspiration from this daring feat, he delivers a swooping but elegantly jittery set that touches on the spacier aspects of dubstep, lounge muzak and modern dancehall. Dowdell does all this from the small stage of the Lexington and yet this feels like your watching the creator make new worlds on a particularly good day.

Their name hints at a desire to cash in on the recent ‘witch house’ trend, but Leeds duo Ghosting Season (formerly known as worriedaboutsatan) are beyond mere labels. This mischevious pair create epic drones and jagged poppy beats from out of thin air. Witnessing their set is akin to watching the souls of Patrick Cowley and Stockhausen performing the dance of death.

Silhouetted against a grainy sheet it’s hard not to take your eyes off Tom Ragsdale, whether he’s enthusiastically pounding his drum machine or attacking his guitar. He brings a joyous energy to a style of music that has a tendency to be played with often pompous solemnity. His Ghosting Season co-conspirator Gavin Miller is somewhat more prosaic, stood often motionless while bowing his guitar and processing these wondrous melodies from the safety of his battered laptop. This is definitely haunting music, but it’s not in any way soulless.

After sets that found the heart suddenly pumping and the mind racing, it was time for Demdike Stare to strike fear into the soul. Their sample laden set is an orgy of sublime ritualistic menace and kitsch reverberation. Playing beneath video projections taken from obscure Euro occult flicks of the ’70s and ’80s, soundtrack fiends Sean Canty and Miles Whittaker continue the evening’s theme of raising the dead for a merry old jig.

Taking their pleasure from sourced loops and phases, they create a cavernous whorl of sound that eddies around the walls and dampens the collective euphoria to a mere moan and groan. Ominous screams and chants struggle to stay buried beneath six feet of vinyl decay, whilst pleading victims and angry cult leaders get stalked by the monsters on the screen above. Their cabalistic beats deceptively hidden beneath spartan washes of noise, they send their legion of admirers into a delirious trance.

Finishing nigh on the witching hour, this has been an evening of dark revelation, an induction to the strangest reaches of the collective unconscious.

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Demdike Stare @ Lexington, London