CHANNEL ISLANDS

Intermission: The Audio rock the granny out of it

In bands, club kamikaze, jersey, live lounge, music on October 17, 2010 at 20:56

In August 2010 I went to what was billed as a secret, debut live set by a band called The Audio. I already knew about the band because I had previously helped to promote events featuring three quarters of its membership.

Leon Bouhaire is formerly the drummer in Black Stats who were Jersey’s dark knights of gothic rock. Leon is truly a gentleman drummer, gracious, friendly and easy to get along with, and in any band he is a powerful, focused musical presence.

Matt Romeril had been in the first band that I worked with as a promoter, The Exchange, and later with one of the finest melodic pop acts to have come out of Jersey – now based in Brighton – The Mulburys.

Keith Saxman is a synthesizer and sax player. He plays saxophone at Philosophy of House events, is known for his work with Sax Maniacs, and was full-time pianist during La Cala’s opening year.

Jim Dolan, singer and guitarist, front man, represents a figure of yer actual glamour and sexual otherness. He is charismatic, great company, and intensely committed to songwriting and performance. I recall how Jim, in the days of his previous band The Author, could also be irrepressibly naughty and a relentless talker of unbelievable bullshit. He was asked to leave that band by co-writer and singer Christian Silver and others who briefly retained the name but swiftly dropped all links to the Jim-period lineup. For the record, Household Appliance was an excellent piece of work – the song, the single release on iTunes, the video, the promotional tour – but those were the last actions of a band that was coming apart fast. After a short period of artistic exile Jim seems to have found a crew that emotionally nourishes in a way that The Author apparently could not.

The Audio chose a St. Helier pub, The Victoria, in Minden Place, not known for live music. It’s a cosy, charmingly old school drinking den in the middle of town, and it has a first floor room that is ideal for the kind of low-key musical adventure that was undertaken on this night, with a small, adequate bar and a long, plant-strewn outdoor area for smoking and chilling in the warm summer air. The only deficiency was an unsuitable sound system; the Bose speakers on stalks that served as a PA for the event just didn’t shape their sound the way it needed. Anyway it was a good night, and the band, though probably feeling the oddness of having their rehearsal space suddenly full of curious people, did a fine job of presenting their new set with certainty and efficiency. Leon’s drumming technique was a bit in need of space, being as it was based on the super fast hi-hat work that electro bands feature so often. A little relaxing of the rhythms would allow for more development of disco grooves which are there to be won in these arrangements. The feeling is already there in Matt’s sinuous, unhurried bass playing. The crowd was appreciative, mostly made up of friends and supporters, and so it was an easy enough audience to please. That allowed The Audio to approach their performance with a lightness of touch, and Matt’s and Jim’s bass and lead guitar interplay was especially effective for not being too tightly orchestrated.

A couple of months later, last Friday in fact, they played again this time at the prestigious 1st Birthday Bash of Club Kamikaze. Helmed by The Midnight Expresso, Club Kamikaze has over the last twelve months featured sets by The Wizard and The Frog, DJ Men In Masks, Capitol K, Wackro, Bones, Brave Yesterday, The Candy Apples, DJ Emba Djemba, Schillaci, Pirate Video Company, The Hats, DJ Ladd, Stevie Dream, Dinosaur Collective, The Flowing Wow, The Centeniers, Scally Dandan, The Bloody Battle, Brobots! … and lots more. There is a certain ethos to be found in all the multi-hued, creative insanity. It seems it is the aim to reproduce the kinds of excesses and fashion-centric art and music culture of Hoxton. I’m not sure if that is actually possible in the very different cultural environment of Jersey, or if my speculation is anywhere near the mark, but it made for some interesting style clashes. I went to a few of the nights and enjoyed the mixed-up, random atmosphere and the joyful silliness that seemed to result from The Midnight Expresso’s own flamboyant editorial style.

In spite of, or perhaps because of not having had a sound check, they hit the ground running with a very loud and completely assured joyride through their material. Jim was in fantastic vocal form, sounding not at all unlike Ziggy-era Bowie at times all swooping melodies and imperious chanting. It’s hard to say what the lyrics are about, only fragments emerge from the booming, synthetic orchestration and that could be because they are poetically fractured intentionally. There is a rich mood, for sure, of science fiction and seedy ’70s glamour, in the onrush of titanic riffs and dazzling chord changes.

The Audio this time were a united team. The drumming was less striving for correctness, and more primal. The importance of Keith’s keyboard playing was obvious with its exquisite chordal amplifications of quite stark rock and blues forms elevating the material to a level of proggy sophistication. There were moments when the way in which the band approached audacious changes and deftly accomplished melodic union palpably excited the audience. A director of Jersey Live was in that audience, and I’d be very surprised if he didn’t think this is a band whose natural place is on the main stage.

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