Reviewed on Thursday February 4
East India Youth’s last record, the immaculately produced Culture Of Volume, saw William Doyle pushing his intellectual brand of electronica in a more pop direction, something like the Pet Shop Boys beset with paranoia. But in this live setting, where he is a manic, jerky presence behind a laptop, the chilliness of his music is pushed to the fore. It’s compelling stuff, with the seven minutes of ‘Hearts That Never’ throbbing with dread and doubt, spluttering out into a maximalist freak-out. ‘Entirety’ is similarly dark, a burnt-out look at our media-saturated culture that flirts heavily with white noise.
Though working in at least broadly similar territory, Chvrches’ music comes from a much warmer place, aiming for something anthemic and affirming, rather than the missives of alienation East India Youth specialises in. They play with one of the most spectacular light shows the Enmore Theatre has seen in recent memory, an industrial array of cool pastels and neon, and the backdrop adds significantly to the epic feel.
These are genuinely huge, streamlined soundscapes from the opening ‘Never Ending Circles’ to the bubbling synths and surging optimism ‘We Sink’, while the hook-laden ‘Make Them Gold’ shows their almost machine-like efficiency in creating bright, sugary synthpop.
Admitting to having initially “stood still onstage and wished for the ground to swallow me up”, Lauren Mayberry is now a genuinely energetic frontwoman, small in stature but with star power and vivaciousness to spare. The Enmore stage can dwarf less charismatic performers, but she works the expanses between the two banks of synths expertly.
‘Leave A Trace’ and ‘Clearest Blue’ are also pristine, building patiently before exploding into choruses big enough to fill stadia, while ‘Empty Threat’ sees the ever-dynamic Mayberry pounding the drums with gusto. Martin Doherty’s Scottish brogue on ‘Under The Tide’ and the almost torch song languor of ‘Afterglow’ are welcome changes of pace, but for the most part it’s the irresistible formula perfected in ‘Recover’ and ‘The Mother We Share’ that dominates, crystalline melodies floating over a base of clattering beats.
Flick through the new music playlist on Spotify any given week and you’ll find at least half a dozen bands imitating their festival-ready brand of shimmering synthpop, but Chvrches remain the leaders of this burgeoning movement.