65daysofstatic

9 November
Millennium Gallery

65daysofstatic’s new work, Decomposition Theory, has an interesting premise. In a nutshell, it is to allow a body of music to develop and occur of its own accord based on a set of core ideas. The band premiered their take on this process in an attempt to ‘decompose’ themselves, to disregard influence beyond the music itself. Millennium Gallery presents a simple yet graceful scene, diverting full attention to the performance area. The stage is a smorgasbord of analogue and digital gadgetry, underlit by magnificent white lights that cast daunting silhouettes across the back wall.

Heavy Bleeding kick off proceedings with an unforgiving assault. Members of Blood Sport unleash a relentless percussive barrage as live coding from Heavy Lifting adds layers of texture which only enhance the savagery. The combination of these two musical acts makes for an accomplished, and deafening, aggrobeat display.

The technical complexities of algorithmic music production are mind-boggling to say the least, but 65daysofstatic employ it to stunning effect. The monumental soundscape they create is at one moment euphoric and the next restrained. Rob Jones sets in motion predatory drums as Joe Shrewsbury’s screaming guitar work provides a celestial foil to the industrial beats and synths that command the room. The full effect is a wall of noise that cascades and crescendos with intensity and melancholy.

The blank canvas behind the band sets ablaze with spectacular colour. Digital glitches portray an intelligent machine awakening followed by imagery that paints an Orwellian landscape. Whilst 65’s intentions with this project are modest, the result holds a profound message that steps beyond the realms of music production. It’s difficult to imagine how the unpredictable nature of Decomposition Theory will translate into a studio release, but considering tonight’s performance I can only predict it will be something special.

Nick Gosling

Declan McKenna

31 October
The Leadmill

What were you doing when you were 18?

Currently on a sold-out tour of the UK promoting his highly-rated first album, What Do You Think About the Car?, Declan McKenna’s socially and politically conscious lyrics have already amassed a loyal following among fellow teenagers, and after this Leadmill gig it’s easy to see why.

McKenna and his four-piece band are in the Halloween spirit, taking the stage in zombie costumes, and a mid-set cover of the Ghostbusters theme goes down predictably well. Unsurprisingly, the crowd is a very youthful one. More surprising are the mosh pits that appear by the first chorus of every song, regardless of their tempo.

“This’ll be as good as it gets, by the way,” says McKenna halfway through the set as his band throw Poundland glowsticks into the crowd. An attempted crowdsurf later on doesn’t go to plan – something of a McKenna trademark, it would seem – but his self-deprecating humour belies an impressively polished set. That said, he’s had plenty of practice, having played over 100 shows this year.

McKenna has shown himself an excellent songwriter, blending serious, mature themes into masterful indie pop, each song gradually rising towards a powerful chorus. With only his debut album to work from (Ghostbusters covers aside), the set is a tactful reordering of the tracklist, building towards crowd-pleasers like ‘Isombard’, ‘Why Do You Feel So Down?’ and ‘Brazil’. The latter, originally produced for GCSE coursework when McKenna was 15, is arguably still the biggest hit of his short career so far. His examiners gave it 98%. McKenna was annoyed, pointing out that the song had catapulted him to fame on both sides of the Atlantic. What more had he needed to do for the missing two percent? Such perfectionism will take him far.

Dan Rawley

Reflecktor

4 November
The Leadmill

Reflecktor play serious indie pop with powerful hooks and riffs, proper vocals and psychedelic electronics.

With a cool stage presence, they deliver a creative power that hits you and rearranges your atoms the way live music is supposed to. Halfway down the bill at my favourite Sheffield venue but with no introduction necessary, the group coolly launch into the big and punchy ‘Elegant Wasted’, a mid-tempo, seriously heady tune with synths set to stun. Felicity Crook’s effortlessly slick vocal, backed by two guitarists who also sing well, is perhaps reminiscent of a darker Goldfrapp. She wears a genuinely far-away look, interrupted only by occasional joking laughter in between numbers.

Explosive beats reminiscent of New Jersey hip hop trio Dälek are plentiful throughout, with John Kubicki’s (The Violet May) guitars weaving through the mix. Co-founders Jon Gray (Digweed, Futureheads, The Coral, Zutons) and Pete Marret (Terminalheads, Ian Broudie) drive with conviction from the rear on keyboards and drums respectively, keeping you fully engaged throughout. There’s plenty of well-styled techno and even a splash of tasty glam punk, particularly on ‘Overall’.

The vast range of experience and influence here could easily be overcooked in the wrong hands, but cool sophistication and cohesion presides, resulting in original, very well-crafted songs and super-confident artistry. The Reflecktor sound injects a big charge to the plateaued landscape of British indie.

Finishing their short but sweet set of eight killer tracks with their 2017 EP title track, ‘Mirrors’, the decent and mostly new crowd were clearly appreciative. You might guess I like them. I’ve been blasting out their quality recordings through my home system and with nearly every track sounding like a single, they’re sure to be headlining bigger venues and getting lots of radio airplay soon. Another easy win for Sheffield.

Jonny Drury