Opening things up for the night with a DJ set of his own music, local producer Bardeya quickly transformed Manning Bar into a world of menace and intimidation. His music, dark, brooding dubstep inspired electronica, made me feel as though I was likely to be stabbed at any moment, and due more to my state of mind at the time, induced a state of subtle paranoia in me. A little heavy to begin the night with in my mind, a quality made all the more palpable by the faceless and bland surroundings of Manning Bar, the music was nevertheless very impressive and I look forward to hearing it in a more fitting context.
Ghoul, playing a man down as bassist Pavle Vizintin is currently overseas, delivered an incredible set. Making up for their missing member, the band were playing to a backing track with vocalist Ivan Vizintin also running his voice through a Kaos Pad. Creating loops and layers of ethereal vocals, helping fill out the sound, this little addition to the band gave them a wavering evocative presence at odds with the clean and hard edged sound they have been working with since coming back from hiatus late last year.
Guitarist and laptop maestro Anthony Warwick had us all drooling slightly with his bouts of whacked out sonic manipulation, doing god knows what to his instrument, bringing forth some Johnny Greenwood-esque offerings of ear bending guitar noise verging on electronica. Drummer Andrew Hannaford, sitting front and centre, also had a terrific showing, his more prominent placing on the stage serving to highlight how far he has come since the band’s early days, his drumming being seamless, innovative and professional.
The set was marked by some technical difficulties, with the ratty DI’s Manning Bar gave them blowing a few songs songs into the set. Towards the end Ivan’s vocal mic straight up died and the band had to finish their set short, closing with a new song and Ivan singing through what I think might have been one of the drum mics.
Seekae took to the stage maybe a half an hour later and from the get go it was obvious the audience were on the farther side of enthusiastic to see them. Having sold out the show, in fact selling out the entire tour down the east coast, it’s apparent that Seekae are fucking huge. Despite receiving minimal airplay on triple j, and their latest album +DOME hardly being littered with catchy hooks and big choruses, Seekae have proven that their popularity is even bigger than some of us had originally guessed at, and after seeing them play the new material live it’s plain to see why.
The greatest challenge to almost any electronic musician is how to make a live show, that for the most part includes a lot of pushing of buttons and head bobbing, engaging to an audience. Where a lot of electronic musicians resort to costumes or over the top AV shows like Daft Punk or Deadmau5, Seekae managed this difficult task quite simply through the use of smoke and lighting matched with careful rearrangements of their music and well thought out and executed segues between songs.
Silhouetted on stage by a green, blue and white glowing cloud of smoke, the band cut an impressive shape, each figure bent over his own station of samplers, laptops, synths and controllers. Playing a small selection of tracks from their first album The Sound Of Trees Falling On People, most of the set was made up of material from +DOME, material that has had new life breathed into it through the live show.
Having been rehearsing religiously in the lead up to these shows, the sounds from the album sounded fully fleshed out live. Where on the record the band’s experimentation with new styles and influences sounded very much exploration, live it’s plain to see that the band have well and truly colonised these influences and assimilated them into the Seekae sound. +DOME in undeniably an album that grows on you over a time, an album whose charms and details tend to only reveal themselves with multiple listens, but live, through the addition of intros, how one song may bleed into the next, certain subtle changes and alterations to the music itself, or just the extra volume of a live show, these songs cut a much more direct line to the listener. Having said themselves that part of their focus in making +DOME was to write music better suited to be played live, this show demonstrated that they have well and truly achieved that goal.
The show was full of highlights. At one point John Hassell dedicated a song to his dad Neal, with the crowd then taking up the chant of ‘Neal! Neal! Neal!’ There was some crowd-surfing during Bloodbank, the fire alarm went off during a particularly awesome mix of Yodal into their remix of June Stranglets by megastick fanfare, and continued to go off, stopping periodically as a robotic voice asked us to evacuate the venue peacefully. George Nicholas eventually reassured us that it was a technical malfunction (I would like to say from all the awesomeness in the room, although it was surely the ridiculous amount of smoke) and that we weren’t in any danger, not that anyone had shown any sign of leaving when it started going off mind you.
Coming back on for an encore and playing Centaur, the 8-bit hit from The Sound Of Trees… the crowd was in a state of spasmodic bliss as the machine gun synth and military drum fuelled intro dropped into the hook. Finishing on gentle sweeping crescendos with all three members playing their various different roles in complete harmony, the show finished on a heavenly high.
Australian music has always had a way of taking influences from overseas and making them our own. Artists like Nick Cave, The Drones even the likes of Silverchair or AC/DC, they all have one thing in common, that their music all has a distinctive personal style, even though their music can be seen as being highly derivative of other artists. In much the same way as The Drones have taken from traditions like the blues and rock and roll, so too have Seekae taken elements from dubstep and other genres within electronica on +DOME, and just like The Drones they have used these elements, conventions or tools if you will to add to the sonic identity they began with their first album. It is this identity, this thread between the two album that becomes so much clearer live that really sets Seekae apart from most other live electronic artists. It is due to their music that their live show is so engaging, not cheap tricks and gimmicks.