Delphic/Mirrors, Garage, London
And, from the push they're getting, their record company agrees. Nauseatingly, for once The Man has got it right
Sunday 10 January 2010
The Rebirth of Synth is nothing new. In fact, it's nearly 10 now, and getting ready for secondary school. For the first couple of years of the Noughties, synthpop was a soundtrack for fashionistas to pose, pout and peacock about to (and there's nothing wrong with that).
Later, it became the template for manufactured mannequins to make state-of-the-art smash hits with (nothing wrong with that either). And for the past 12 months, it was the favoured format for DIY girls, boys and girlie-boys to do their wonky pop thing (ditto).
As we enter 2010, it's going existential. The two bands on the bill at this NME Radar gig are both doing something profound, magnificent and moving with electronics, creating the sort of elegiac edifices that possess the power to make you pause and consider the human condition.
All of which lifts the soul, but first, we can't ignore a phenomenon that thoroughly debases it. I've said it before, but it bears repeating: there's something dispiriting about the annual New Year parade of foregone conclusions, about the way the industry has it all sewn up. It doesn't take an oracle, if you'll pardon the pun, to predict that Delphic are gonna be huge. When I'm receiving emails asking permission to use one of my quotes in a TV ad about a band no one's heard of, you know something's afoot. Delphic are getting the same push from Polydor this year that White Lies got from Geffen last year. The only reason to not feel nauseated is that, for once, The Man has got it right.
It's a massive financial investment in a band who are still playing tiny lofts to 100 people. Ah, but which 100 people? The music industry's usual suspects (and yes, I'm one) all troop in as showtime approaches. Most of them have missed the support act, and more fool them.
Mirrors didn't get mentioned once in the NME's new bands issue, and seem to have been left off the hype train. This only makes me root for them more. The sharp-dressed Brighton quartet's dual singer-synthmen James and Ally stand back-to- back like an electro Quo as they toil away in utmost seriousness, as though carving emeralds from a mineface. Wintry as the world outside, monumental as the Eiger, they shine like blue lights in the January blackness.
Mirrors' sound recalls early OMD (when earnestness had yet to give way to dad-dancing) and Ultravox (John Foxx era). At least one song sounds like Joy Division's "Atmosphere" if it had been recorded a decade later, post-Acid. Another sounds like Arcade Fire if they were into circuits and wires, not strings and strumming. Another blatantly echoes LCD Soundsystem's "All My Friends", proving they have immaculate taste. And you have to admire the style of any band who preface one track with a snatch of DH Lawrence's poem "The Mosquito".
There's a crackle in the air when Delphic take the stage, and it isn't from a loose jackplug. A lot of emotion has been invested in the Mancunians, as well as a lot of money. The "New New Order" tag is being used so widely because it's true: Delphic draw upon the intelligence of Manchester's musical heritage, and leave the city's simian and knuckledragging side in a dustbin marked "Gallagher".
Delphic's music, particularly on something like the glacially anthemic single "Doubt", has the power to make you suddenly come over all tearful and choked up. And if they catch you when you're already feeling a bit that way ... watch out. Not that it's all solemnity. If they'd come along three years ago, they'd probably have been a far more DayGlo proposition ("This Momentary" sounds like the Klaxons with the nu-rave trappings stripped away).
Singer James Cook has spoken of the influence of rave-friendly acts like the Chemical Brothers, and it becomes evident when Delphic fill the gaps between songs not with banter but with beats. Close your eyes, let the strobes redden your lids and the techno rattle your ribcage, and you could be in the second stage field at Glastonbury when the Chem Bros themselves are peaking. Delphic are a party band and a cerebral band at the same time. They are destined to be important, and not just because a cabal of company men have decided that they will be.
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