The Exeter Hall, Oxford
2nd December 2005
Tonight’s Gappy Tooth Winter Warmer weekend warm-up is “electronica” in its broadest sense, as the line-up is decidedly eclectic.
Quintet Script have a female-male vocal dynamic which weaves around epic keyboard parts to produce something rather beautiful. Think The Magic Numbers covering Muse. The guitar leads more than the keyboard, which is a shame, as it makes them sound more folky and obscures some of the winsome tunes and chord progressions. Some of their songs are either too short or end in seemingly inappropriate places, which jars somewhat. It’s all an appealing jumble, though they could maybe do with a little more polish to define their sound.
It’s a mystery that Trademark aren’t more widely known. They are perfect synthpop; the newer stuff they play tonight (especially Where You Went Wrong and Stuck in a Rut) is more poppy and commercial than their earlier darker and moodier stuff, but still an exquisite example of the craft, and still exhibits their early 80s musical roots. Oli is an animated frontman, in contrast to his enigmatic Kraftwerk-esque bandmates, and they have the whole package sorted, from the suits to the plug logo. Lovely.
Eskimo Disco are one of those bands that have the pomp before the fame, but that may not necessarily be a bad thing: their swagger is compelling. They’re heading for the “spacerock” category, evoking Daft Punk, Blondie, Stevie Wonder and even Junior Senior without falling into the Babylon Zoo trap. There’s a hint of Bowie, especially (ironically?) in Japanese Girl, and the whole thing is flamboyant and fun, even the cover of The Final Countdown. Picture Perfect would be a fantastic plaintive pop song if it weren’t for the distracting talking bits and self-indulgent guitar solo, and What is Woman is the best song Giorgio Moroder never wrote. No doubt the Franz Ferdinand fans will discover them soon.
From Nightshift, January 2006
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.