The Jericho Tavern, Oxford
29th August 2002
From the moment the trio walk on stage, bedecked in white coats complete with red LEDs down the arms, you know this is not just another local indie band gig. Trademark are self-styled “oddball labcoat pop”, unashamedly dated yet with an original and personal sound; while Stuart Meads and Paul Soulsby tap away at their impressive array of synthesizers, singer Oli Horton emotes his way through a set of mini-sagas, some from their new album, Fear: Disconnection.
During the set a video was shown, charting Trademark’s history – including footage of this year’s Truck Festival appearance -and including visuals from gigs earlier in their career. Their new album is their fourth, and their songwriting maturity is palpable: Sawtooth Lust recalls early Human League circa Reproduction, but incorporating the advances in technology of the intervening 25 years. Sine Love is an earnest ballad, highlighting Oli’s sincere and angst-laiden vocal style, and the brilliant Focus a perfect synthpop song, with heavy distortion and a Gary Numan-esque guitar vibe.
New song Breakdown is a proggy three-section epic (the first two sections of which are performed completely live) with a hauntingly dark melody, suggesting twin passions of Depeche Mode (especially Black Celebration) and Yes, but also recalling Bronski Beat’s Smalltown Boy towards the end. Trademark seem to have married emotion and electronica to perfection, reminiscent of Soft Cell but with a fuller, more saturated sound.
Bizarrely, Paul gives a lecture in the middle of the set; this one was about about sawtooth, triangle and square waves, harmonics and “saturating the oscillator”. A previous lecture was about the evils of presets, and it is obvious that Trademark painstakingly craft all their sounds themselves; indeed, the whole set was was a lesson on how to create and construct beauty from the barest elements of sound.