Live Music + Gig Reviews

Pivot @ Paradiso, Amsterdam

28 September 2008

Aussie-via-London three-piece Pivot are deliberate strangers to melody. Not for them the safe, cosseted framework of verse, chorus, harmony and lyrics; instead they mash a post-rock sensibility with scrunchy electronica.

Following a support stint with Sigur Rs and ahead of their first full UK tour, the Warp signings showed up at Amsterdam’s Paradiso to play for a suitably musey, chinstroking audience. The upstairs venue wasn’t full and dancing was never on the bill.

But in these boys’ hands electronica never was intended to be dancey-dancey; as evidenced by recent debut album O Soundtrack My Heart, their creative vision takes them in a quite different direction.

Comprising a drummer, a guitarist/vocalist and an electrogizmo controller with a laptop, Pivot eschew visuals and costume statements. Jeans and t-shirts abound; it’s easy to imagine them dressing and behaving the same in their rehearsal space.

They give the immediate impression of simply doing what they do, regardless of venue and audience. The drummer is comfortable enough to attempt Dutchie salutations and request brighter lights, while the laptop lad spazzes out like a geek on too much lemonade.

Whenever they give suggestion of approaching a memorable loop or melody they kill it. They’re more interested in the dynamics of overlaying and looping sounds and the emotions they create on stage together than in making music fit for radio.

Several tracks merge from one to the next, a DJ approach that serves to draw the listener in deeper to their soundscapes which range from lonesome, pining guitar notes (Epsilon) to ADHD synth loops (Nothing Hurts Machine).

One track in which their dated synth sounds dominate to lush effect, Fool In Rain, sounds like a homage to Sbastien Tellier, Giorgio Moroder and even, briefly, Jean-Michel Jarre. A rich, soothing, looped and euphoric sound is punctuated by off-the-wall stabs of spazzy electro sounds before it all subsumes into a cymbals-only wigout.

At the set’s midpoint the album’s title track mixes intensely fast drumming with guitar histrionics until the band all change positions, giving watching eyes something to look at. The drummer moves to a keyboard, the guitarist moves to another keyboard, and controller boy fiddles with a cymbal.

Sing You Sinners unleashes a torrent of “aaahs” from the posturing guitarist; these he loops back over and over and drenches in reverb. His voice is an instrumental expression; at no point does he switch into lyrics.

Sweet Memory suggests Pivot have in their midst a rock band in the mix, albeit a complex one. The main set’s final track gets worryingly close to an instrumental version of Eye Of The Tiger – all we’d need to pitch it over the edge is Jarvis Cocker taking to the stage. Even without such a distraction, it’s a high point.

The album’s title track is the closest they get to a hummable tune, but it’s more about switchback rhythms and complex layers than that. And if O Soundtrack My Heart did indeed soundtrack anyone’s most vital organ, cardiac arrests and seizures would very likely result.

An enthusiastic encore brings them back, but they’ve played their entire debut album and, rather sheepishly, set about an improvised number to close. The musos in musing attendance give hearty applause; Pivot may not cause breakouts of humming or dancing but their distinctive music seems already to have found its niche.

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Pivot @ Paradiso, Amsterdam