Last night I headed over to the Lexington for a rather tantalising triple-bill of new noisemakers. Headed by hype band of the moment Sleigh Bells, our otherwise dull Monday night was further enlivened by the Moshi Moshi-endorsed TEETH and a couple of kids with drumsticks known as Becoming Real. It was all rather entertaining.
Becoming Real have been popping up here and there round the capital, supporting buzz bands like Wild Nothing and generally causing a bit of a commotion. The best thing, at first glance, about Becoming Real is their stage set-up. Two guys facing each other over a desk full of synths, samplers and knobs, and the odd drum scattered about the place. Both wield drumsticks throughout, occasionally beating out a trible, afro-pop-style rhythm on a drum, but predominantly triggering samples and making a racket by means of hitting technology very hard. The music is always mesmerising, and while it drifts at times into a sub-chillwave mush, it builds to some fascinating climaxes that make it all worthwhile. Good stuff.
TEETH are pretty fun. Vocalist Veronica So has clearly studied her post-punk girl bands in some depth, and has probably heard a Chicks on Speed record at some point in her life. So while she’s not the strongest vocalist we’ve ever heard, she more than makes up for it in attitude. It’s that ramshackle, art/noise-pop approach that dominates for most of the set, with a lot of shouting backed with decent electro noises (produced on a macbook held in one hand by electronics dude Ximon, while dancing). There’s also more than a touch of Crystal Castles about the whole thing. In truth, where these guys really take off is when they tone down the attitude and posturing and let the music do the talking, as on the soaring synth waves of latest single See Spaces.
Finally though, Sleigh Bells. By this point, the venue is full to bursting and anticipation is high. The band do a pretty awesome job of building up to their appearance, with an intro involving pitch darkness punctuated only by the occasional flashing light and some righteous metal noise. When Alexis (vocals, ex-teenpop singer) and Derek (guitar, ex-Poison the Well) leap into action, you have a few seconds to register that there’s a whole lot of backing track action going on here, but any doubts around that are swiftly blasted away by the noise emanating from the huge Marshall stacks lining the stage. And most of that’s just coming out of Alexis’s mouth. The set kicks off, rightly, with lead single Tell ‘Em, and from there on in it’s 30 minutes of tracks from Treats, all of which amounts to a showcase for one lady. And what a showcase. Where TEETH fall down a little on attitude over substance, it seems there’s very little Alexis Krauss can’t accomplish with those vocal chords. A particular highlight is her ability to ditch her mic, and deliver a high-pitched scream that is somehow louder than the beats coming out of those stacks. Wow.
Were it not for a couple of tracks, this could all seem a little one-paced. Blisteringly effective, regardless, but heavy on the volume and vocal gymnastics, and where next? As anyone that’s heard Treats knows though, there are a couple of exciting glimpses of Sleigh Bells’ range and possible future directions, most notably here tonight in the shape of pretty, downbeat strumalong Rill Rill. While a lot of their reputation may rest on their successful mashup of hardcore punk and R’n’B/pop styles, Rill Rill offers the surest glimpse so far of the possibilities for moving beyond (or in and out of) this limiting template. A highlight. But then so, of course, is the closing blast of ‘Crown on the Ground’, culminating in Alexis crowdsurfing her way around the Lexington’s tiny space. And then the sets ends and Alexis rather sweetly apologises that the loud demands for an encore won’t be met as they simply don’t have any more songs. A shame really, as despite the unpromising Monday night timing, we’d have been happy for this to carry on all night.