Arriving half an hour after doors open on a Sunday evening to find that a band you wanted to see, Exxxtacy, are due to finish already? But actually, you can catch a fair bit of them because they started slightly late? Marvellous isn’t it. People being deprived of live music for a lengthy period generated a lot of nostalgia for the mundanities of ‘the gig experience’, things no one should sensibly be wistful about. I scorn it, but I get it.
Exxxstacy is at least part-Cardiffian, a queer electro-punk group whose singer dresses like a New York Doll and shouts a bunch. My head was turned by hearing their two heroically shambolic EPs on Spotify, which, in their live version, probably needs to be played at 4 am or amidst an unhealthily dense crush of revellers, so consider this an endorsement of helping that to happen.
Discovery Zone is JJ Weihl, an American living in Berlin who makes semi-conceptual retrofuture synthpop with vocoder’d vocals. A video backdrop switches between pseudo-deep questions for punters to ponder and green screen animated frames. Weihl skips back and forth between her keyboards and Moog Theremini with a brief lie down on stage. She’s an engaging performer without having to do much, and following her set returns to the front row to watch the headliners.
Black Marble is a project that started in New York, moved to Los Angeles a few years ago, remains the sole domain of Chris Stewart on record and performs as a guitar/bass/keyboards trio on tour, retooling Stewart’s impeccably wobbly early 80s synthpop stylings in more post punkish colours. New Order reversing time back to Joy Division is a very simplified summary but gives you a loose idea of the sound palette. Onstage, they pretty much live and die on the effectiveness of that sound – and the ability of Stewart to write killer melodies to start with, in fairness – as there’s little to no audience interaction, although Stewart’s Moschino sweater and his bassist’s Jandek t-shirt silently do their bit.
This show falls on the same weekend as splendid new album Fast Idol is released, and from it come Somewhere and Bodies, early on in a 45-minute set. One Eye Open, from 2019’s Bigger Than Life, and a take on Wire’s In Manchester (featured on a stopgap covers EP, but which Black Marble seem to have cemented in their live canon) stand out on an evening which was entirely pleasant even if unlikely to be a source of nostalgia in the 40s or so.
Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff, Sun 24 Oct
words and photos NOEL GARDNER
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