11 March 2018
L-Space's sounds of a retro-future are sculpted to synthetic perfection.
Published in Crash
In effect at Sneaky’s this eve is a percussion prohibition, self-imposed by the trio of performing acts. Drum kits of a physical nature may be nowhere in sight but a barrage of gadgetry: laptops, drum-machines, synths, et al, fill the void and deliver sounds unachievable by traditional means.
Dundee duo Beta Waves initiate the triptych with a sound far bigger than the sum of its parts. Dale Easson’s sun-drenched guitar melds with Harry Crossan’s thumping tech and melancholic keys so tightly that 80s cop shows need a revival purely for these lads to pen the score. Easson’s collected demeanour gives way on odd occasion by way of his lyrics to the emotions that perturb his existence. During I Think I’m Melting, their third band member — a legacy soldier of Steve Jobs’ army — goes fritz, leaving the track sans-backing beat. Despite goading thwacks from Crossan, the Mac seems incapable of resuscitation; Easson curses its fallibility and begins whistling the melody, his breaking of the forth wall reminds us that regardless of the sounds technology can create, it is human spontaneity that prevails in the end.
Jugular shot of joviality Pocket Knife breeze on stage with their endearing concoction of synth-pop, punk and yé-yé. Bringing with them a profanity laced patchwork of tunes about biscuits, rage repression, making your exes new squeeze squirm, and the wish of being a prize fish, it is truly impossible to be a monolith of gloom in audience with this pair. Louise Connor’s candid lyrics, mellow presence and playful fluctuations between French and English make us feel like it is our childhood pal on stage singing of their musings. In tandem, Michael Nimmo’s bass is like a gentle handhold that guides us through their impish world at walking pace. Custard Cream perfectly encapsulates their ethos with its looping melody, bouncing bass-line and cheeky verse. Their sound makes the desire to shoulder shimmy and shoe shuffle back a couple of decades impossible to ignore.
Through the shifting clouds of time and a warping soundscape from the deepest cosmos L-Space materialise for the launch of their debut single Suneaters. Aesthetically and sonically they exude a distinct yet ageless sci-fi aura; a stranglehold on their governing epoch is impossible to discern — the 1980s by way of the 2180s. Operating without a drummer, the four stand abreast like a police lineup from an amalgam of The Usual Suspects and The Fifth Element. Emerging with Southern Reach’s wistful and sweeping electronica establishes the four-piece’s synthetic backbone from the get go, which persists with perfect posture until the set’s denouement.
The atmosphere that their sound creates is celestial in both spectacle and spirit, but it is also darkly deceptive. Aloe begins with Lily Higham’s breathy vocals and heavenly synths, luring us into a reflective reverie, before erupting into wanton warfare. Gordon Johnstone’s soaring guitar delivers an aerial assault of distortion, while Dickson Telfer’s buzzing bass booms like the heralding of a robotic revolution, but Higham’s superlunary tones swoop in again like the white dove, to deliver peace.
The originality of the lyrics — inspired by visions of what is yet to come and the minds of great Sci-fi wordsmiths — are matched by no other of their contemporaries. No clearer is this than on Brother Mars, a future-folk tale about the colonisation of the red planet. Higham’s conviction and imagery makes the dream of this mission seem like a palpable memory that we experience vicariously. The delicacy of Johnstone’s arpeggios coupled with Higham’s performance is beyond captivating. Cradling the mic with two hands, with closed eyes, the rawness of her character could not be any more prominent, neither could my goosebumps. Retro-futurism is a hard balance to achieve, but L-Space’s unyielding credence in their cause allows them to run the blade without a chance of slipping.