I'm Sure I Saw Them on a Poster...: Adventures in stereo

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The Independent Culture
WE MIGHT be witnessing the results of some unholy experiment. It is as if Elisabeth Esselink aka Solex has spent the best part of her life locked in a cupboard, left only to dream of sound. Now, wide-eyed in the daylight, she is presenting her idea of what music should be. The normal rules - time signatures, rhythms, that sort of thing - seem to have been rendered obsolete. More important is the juxtaposition of sound, from antique sampling and synth sounds to dark guitar riffs and jittery percussion, loosely held together by a distant melody.

This random assemblage of sounds is actually the product of an extraordinary modus operandi. Her forthcoming album Pick Up (Matador) is composed almost entirely out of bootlegged material, from classical and jazz to heavy metal, all furtively collected at Amsterdam concerts with a concealed tape recorder.

With the disparate parts now gathered into a creative whole, Esselink can barely contain her excitement, performing like a kid in a toyshop, with her guitarist and drummer happy to indulge her. Both menacing and melancholy, her vocals crackle as if the stream-of-consciousness lyrics were being uttered for the first time. It is peculiarly compelling, if a little unsettling.

You know what the fuss over frat-house rockers Lit is all about well before the gig starts. Touts are forced to step aside as hordes of young girls stand waving cash at passers-by and begging them for their tickets. Inside, the sweat-fest is well under way, with the audience screaming themselves silly before their idols even grace the stage. Sure enough, Lit's cartoonish singer, the absurdly-named A.Jay Popoff, looks like a cross between Johnny Depp and a young Elvis Presley, although his movements are more Jackie Chan.

But even his filmic good looks fail to eclipse their music - power pop plus slide guitars, maniacal drumming and hands-in-the-air anthems. Granted, there is nothing pioneering about their sound, but for those in need of a succession of three-minute thrills, Lit are just the ticket.

Brassy are is possession of an appealing dryness, seen most acutely in the deadpan assurance of vocalist Muffin Spencer. Dressed in microscopic shorts and knee-socks, Spencer looks disturbingly like a schoolgirl on sports day, a factor that does not go unnoticed by a mostly male crowd. Indeed, with all the attention centred on her aesthetic qualities, her vocal talents seem to take a back seat. Often she is drowned out by guitar riffs and cack-handed scratching, and it is only by force of personality that she makes her mark in the end.

Fiona Sturges