Brooklyn's latest hip exports would not have taken long to feel at home on this leg of their current tour. They were playing a part of town full of diners displaying that squirty Yank mustard on every table and offering extravagant brunches.
The audience soon dropped their usual Shoreditch cool, though, to whoop and cheer as if this was a hometown gig. The Phenomenal Handclap Band (PHB) were pressing the right buttons, combining two very current sounds, underground disco and psychedelia.
Formed by two New York DJs, Daniel Collás and Sean Marquand, PHB is, they claim, the "personification of their holy vision". That is to say, they moved into production for a bevy of Latino-influenced projects, most notably the 2005 comeback of Salsoul founder Joe Bataan, before attempting to pursue their own muse. They certainly convinced on their eponymous debut release, with help from the likes of punk 'n'roller Jon Spencer.
They have also pulled together an eight-piece group that carries off PHB's muscular boogie with space rock and cosmic country flourishes. Behind a keyboard, the saturnine Collás was flanked by two dusky singers, while Marquand fidgeted in seclusion with his own synths at the rear. Bing Ji Ling, a big-haired guitarist, communed with the crowd. Although tight and adept, this outfit did not quite match the artfulness of the studio originals. A case in point was "All of the Above". On record, it sounds like the Scissor Sisters taking on Brazil's own freakbeat, Tropicalia; live, we heard a more middle-of-the-road affair, with throaty vocals from Ling.
Ling was also responsible for "Baby", a lame take on Curtis Mayfield's expansive sound. Far better, though, was the forthcoming single "15 to 20". Without Lady Tigra's dry rap, tonight's two vocalists did well to turn it into a schoolyard chant with some Debbie Harry, "Rapture" insouciance. PHB's Hispanic sass finally emerged in a compelling, Malcolm McLaren-style tribal rhythm, a riot of cowbells and raw guitars. They followed this with another winner, the space disco of "You'll Disappear". Its instrumental breakdown caused a melee of pogoing and hollering.
As rebirths go, Collás and Marquand have yet to shake off their former lives. They showed their impeccable DJ taste, but as a live act failed to fully convince.Reuse content