Live review: Mollusc Tape Launch
Melbourne-based two-piece Mollusc recently launched their new tape at The Grace Darling, with support from Vacuum, Karli White and Subjects. We were there to check it out:
I walked in to a freak-beat-strobe-drone – bass at the front, noisemakers at the back. I hadn’t seen Subjects before but my interest was piqued when I heard they sounded like The Birthday Party minus the guitars. To be honest though, there aren’t too many parallels that can be drawn between the two, other than maybe the singer whose gestures were perhaps Cave-esque but whose words were completely inaudible due to the overall mixing of the set. What was audible was a thick, indistinguishable pulsing of electronic do-dads, drum machines and bass interspersed with the a-rhythmic thwack of some kind of mic’d up trashcan lid. The whole thing teetered on the brink of a muddy drone due in part to the bad mix but their aggression and sheer volume had the effect of defibrillating the crowd and setting the tone of the evening which, according to the Grace Darling’s gig guide, was Industrial, Darkwave, Synthpop and, dare I add, Goth.
To clarify, The Grace Darling is kind of a disingenuously refurbished pub that’s somehow acquired an interesting clientele due to their happy hour. As a venue it can be hit and miss due in part to their small stages (upstairs and down) and even smaller PAs but on the plus side it’s got gas fireplaces in most rooms and someone with taste picking the music behind the bar. I’m being harsh really because the fact is I find myself there people watching over a pint glass more often than I care to admit.
Anyway, I dragged myself back upstairs after the ubiquitous between set cigarette to find Karli White on stage standing at the apex of two tables, each filled with various samplers and noisemakers. Between songs she seemed a little nervous although I could understand that given she was the only performer of the night to take the stage alone. Once she got going and had layered the song up into a brooding pulse, she ruled over her machines and relaxed enough to get into character. Feel Less (This Dull Headache) was lyrically a real turning point in the set. Lines like, “I was found in a state, eyes locked forward, my back cooled by the tiles of the shower floor” threw me in the middle of some kind of trauma. She was one of those performers that make the crowd lean forward to hear what she had to say.
At this point it’s getting crowded upstairs and as I make my way back to the front after the break, Vacuum order the lights be turned out and I just about fall ass over tit onto the stage (luckily it was too dark and Goth in there for anyone to see me). As my eyes adjusted I managed to make out two straight-fringed black mops swinging over the flashing lights of electro-gear. Vacuum were arguably the first band of the night that were danceable but I’m not sure whether that was because of their slightly more up-tempo synth-pop or because the place was so dark that people could dance without caring whether that vampiric guy next to them was judging their Goth-credibility (now, I realise I’m taking the piss here a little but in reality, I have quite the affinity for wearing black, so take it easy.) In all seriousness though, to say that the crowd were only dancing because of the darkness doesn’t give Vacuum enough credit because I’ve never seen a band turn the act of pushing buttons into such a hypnotic dance. It was infectious. At one point I remember thinking they looked like two enormous black spiders dancing and pushing buttons with limbs-a-swinging.
By the time Mollusc took the stage I had to really elbow my way to the front (sacrificing a little beer in the process) but it was worth it even if I did cop a couple of scowls and whispered expletives.
The first time I saw Mollusc was back in June at the Tote. I remember nervously watching as they juggled playing their respective guitars and synths whilst simultaneously triggering the drum machine’s changes. It was a tense tightrope walk situation; one wrong button could throw the whole thing off, or worse – into silence. Since that show I’ve watched members, Emma Hart and Mohini Hillyer progressively hone their craft and continue to build their live sets into something genuinely unique. What’s more is that in the year that they’ve been playing shows they’ve already cultivated their own sludged-out post-punk sound and aesthetic of rose thorns and robot dominatrixes.
Up until Mollusc took the stage, the show had been a six-string free event – a decidedly anti-rock affair – but while some tracks like tape opener, Anxiety have some post-punk leanings, any fears of the show turning into anything remotely considered rock were quashed as soon as the drum machine thumped into life. Their whole set oozed confidence, particularly set-highlight, Hate with its demonic/robotic refrain of “Everybody hates you” that had the first three rows moving in an uninhibited drunken grind. Mohini and Emma don’t fall into the electro-trap of focusing solely on their gear with eyes fixed to the floor; they hold a power over not just their machines but the crowd too.
Get the tape. http://bvlvmlsc.bandcamp.com/releases
Words and pictures by Sam Varney