Klaus Johann Grobe + Scarlett Arcade: The Exchange, Stoke on Trent – live review
The Exchange, Stoke on Trent
23 May 2014
The Swiss drum ‘n’ synth duo, Klaus Johann Grobe, delight Glenn Airey deep in the Potteries.
Rather like the packing on a ready meal that tells you what percentage of your daily horse meat allowance it contains, Trouble in Mind Records have helpfully put some guidance on the cover of Klaus Johann Grobe’s recent album so that potential buyers know what to expect. ‘Sounds like krautrock, post-punk, MPB, disco & psychedelia colliding on the dancefloor. Brace yourself’, warns the sticker affixed to Im Sinne Der Zeit.
MPB, in case you didn’t know, means Musica Popular Brasileira, which should be reasonably self-explanatory to anyone with a rudimentary grasp of European linguistics. Anyway, it’s a lovely record and I’d been playing it all week so I braced myself as advised and ventured into Stoke on Trent city centre to catch the Swiss duo live last Friday night.
KJG consists of Daniel Bachmann and Sevi Landolt who play drums and keyboards respectively while sharing the vocal side of things. They’ve been joined for this UK tour by bassist Stephan Brunner. Sevi attacks his to-die-for Moog synth/ Farfisa organ combo with expert flourish while the rhythm section whips up a mesmerising pulse that occasionally tightens up into motorik rigidity but is generally much more fluid, making good on those MPB and disco claims adorning their record sleeve. Stephan’s rubber-band basslines give the whole sound a funky, ESG lift and if you’re not smiling halfway through the first song then you must have had a bloody awful week.
The Krautrock references, in truth, are a little lazy, so if they lead you to expect a bit too much chin-stroking and not enough grooving then don’t worry. KJG play music that’s primarily for the feet, not the head. The lyrics are almost all in German anyway so, as cool as they sound, there isn’t much to distract the average monolingual Brit from the serious business of getting lost in the music. I’m ashamed to admit that my own German extends little beyond a few unfortunate war-film clichés and two of Santa’s reindeer. Unsurprisingly, I didn’t catch any of those particular phrases during the set but I didn’t let that spoil my enjoyment of a terrific performance by an adventurous band who were bang on form. Do go and see them if you get the chance. Oh, and grab their LP too, if you see it, it’s great. If you enjoy lo-fi electro, groovy soundtrack music, Stereolab and that surrounding musical milieu then you won’t go far wrong here.
A quick mention too for the local support act, Scarlett Arcade, and their dramatic but joyful take on 80s synth-pop. Fine playing, great presence and that girl can sing. Everyone has a soft spot for Depeche Mode’s Enjoy the Silence and if I tell you that Scarlett Arcade did that song perfect justice and that it sounded completely at home in their set, then hopefully that will serve as recommendation enough.