Live Review: Drahla, Roxy Girls + The Shakamoto Investigation at Studio 9294, Hackney Wick

This was my second visit to Studio 9294 and it’s fast becoming one of my favourite London venues. There’s a great view from almost everywhere and kudos to the engineers at both The Coathangers and Drahla shows as the sound was amazing.

This was a night of angles and spikes, barbed pop packed with negative space and firework bursts of rhythm and beats. The night opened with a spiked baseball bat, moved on to a geometry set of musical mathematics and culminated in the controlled rage of Drahla.

Leeds three-piece The Shakamoto Investigation opened and were just flat out brilliant. Ellis Smith (Guitar), Sam Horton (Bass) and Jake Sainty (Drums) were full of fire and nervous energy and their whole set was a joy with standouts tracks being the earworm ‘Take It or Leave It’ and the Pied-Piper-on-speed drama of ‘Rats’ (with its mock-horror false endings). I had a quick chat after the show and was given a CD which is a piece of lo-tech genius design with a sticky hand-written label wonkily placed on the CD and a ‘cover’ made from a Cooplands Bakery paper bag; hole ripped to display the label. It also still contained some flaked pastry. If I ever to start to rate bands I’d give them 5 sausage rolls out of 5.

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Sunderland’s Roxy Girls performed some tough musical calculations on stage. Tom (vocals, guitar), Matthew (bass), Aidan (Drums) and Isaac (vocals, guitar) powered their way through songs as equations with tuneful fractions and long division beats (logo-rhythms?). I can only imagine the amount of work it takes at the rehearsal stage to master the stops, starts and tempo changes so that it looks effortless on stage, but there’s a melancholy humanity to their songs and the vocals pull the whole together which stops the maths from taking over.

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Drahla take to a stage awash with dry ice and red light and an old school TV monitor sits in the background showing the stage view from a camera mounted above the audience. This adds another layer to the feeling of paranoia and surveillance that pervades their music. The core band members of the Leeds three-piece are Luciel Brown (vocals, guitar) Rob Riggs (bass) and Mike Ainsley (drums) and they are joined on stage by saxophonist Chris Duffin of the XAM Duo (who also plays on the recent album Useless Coordinates). Having Chris on stage adds an extra dimension to the music as he not only weaves tunes throughout but also provides layered soundscapes that underpin songs or float above them.

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Drahla are not out to be your best friend, there are no pithy anecdotes or stories about songs (unless you count the repeated calls for “Can I have some more bass in my monitor please”). The bulk of the set is taken up with tracks from Useless Coordinates with one new – currently vocal-free – number. From the opening Sax/FX and echoed string scraping overture you are in Drahla’s world. The sax is often the link between tracks and helps to provide a constant sense of immersion that doesn’t leave until the show is over and the spell is broken. I was a huge fan of the album and this show demonstrated that they can create a strong live set which adds another powerful facet to the source material.

Review and photography by Paul F Cook

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