Eccentronic Research Council featuring Maxine Peake
Hebden Bridge Trades Club
19 January 2013
Hebden Bridge Trades Club is appropriately dressed for tonight. Draped walls, 1970’s Tretchikoff style kitsch paintings and spikey white trees on the stage combine to make an appropriate backdrop for what is rumoured to be the band’s last performance of their impressive debut, the ‘1612 Overture’. A unique concept album commenting on and commemorating the Pendle witch trials.
The piece of work is a collaboration between Sheffield electronic musicians Dean Hohner (I Monster) and Adrian Flannagan (Kings Have Long Arms) and the glorious jewel of the North that is actress Maxine Peake (anything brilliant on telly).
The electronic duo take to the stage in darkness and fire up the machines to produce a beautifully bizarre cacophony of bleeps and swooshes. A sound worthy of any 1970’s sci-fi programme and work that the BBC Radiophonic Workshop could lay claim to. They are joined by the stunning Philly and Lucy from the Chanteuse and the Crippled Claw (whose long vintage bridal frocks suggest that they may have taken a detour on the way to a wedding off of 1975) and the ladies proceed to add more strange layers to the sound.
We are finally joined by our glamorous narrator for the evening Maxine Peake. She is wearing a vintage black velvet party frock straight out of Abigail’s Party and with her arrival the rolling synth backing track of Autobahn 666 cranks up. We are off. On a journey into a imaginatively drawn story of the Pendle witch trails and the travelogue document of a day out documenting the band’s research into the subject. Maxine’s perfectly timed talk – singing delivery of Adrian’s entertaining lyrics has the crowed locked in from the start. Some look puzzled, some look shocked but most look delighted – no gossiping in this crowd – the ERC have everyone’s full attention.
The set takes the format of the album, sliding seamlessly from the thought provoking monologues ‘This is the North’ and the Anne Sexton poem ‘Her Kind’ to sweeping pure electronica indulgence and back again.
Midway into the set and to begin the next song story, Miss Peake retreats to the back of the stage and we are informed that she can’t play an instrument but will give the theremin a go. She does. With elegant aplomb. The band are then joined on stage by the lovely Lucy Hope for ‘The Hangman’s Song’ who arrives looking fresh from a fight with Alexis Carrington from an episode of 1980’s Dynasty sporting mussed up hair and make up, a shot of whiskey in a glass, a sparkly floor length gown and a massive rope noose around her neck – “it’s the London look”.
This show is anything but unoriginal. Another short instrumental sees Maxine return to the front of the stage for a microphone sharing duet with collaborator Adrian. ‘Another Witch is Dead’ has dare I say it a catchy poppy chorus for which Miss Philly takes vocal duties. Not enough songs feature lyrics like ‘Pass my palm a little silver and I’ll promise not to slaughter your sheep’ but it is as thought provoking as it is humourousÂ “every eye that sees is guilty of a subtle kind of cruelty.”
This is followed by arguably by the most well received track of the night ‘Ghost of Old Lizzy Southerns Returns’
It’s comic elements belie a very serious, current and topical agenda exploring themes of religion, politics, reality TV and social injustice.
Certain lines produce full on whoops and cheers from the audience.
“Curse rabid Cameron and the cuts to his vacation thereâs probably another useless member appointed just like you right now.
“Curse the EDL – Evil. Dregs. Losers and that bulldog jowelled, glass eyed Terry Duckworth lookalike evil Dick Griffin
“Curse the Jeremy Kyle / Matthew Wright audience. Randy sods, busy bodies and gossips doing nowt but taking the moral high ground
“SMOKESCREENS – I CURSE YOU!”
The set ends here and the band return for a an encore to perform their free download single ‘Black Christmas’ – probably the best Christmas number one there has never been and that is it.
Whatever you think of the Eccentronic Research Council they could never be accused of being dull. The clue is in the title – they are spectacularly eccentric. If you have been lucky enough to attend any of their rare live performances you will know that they have a feel of a special event – a Happening even.
If you haven’t and haven’t done so already, do your ears a favour and buy the 1612 Overture on Finders Keepers Records.
Weird? Yes – probably. Wonderful? Yes – certainly.
I for one wish them more comebacks than Cher.
All words by Jacky Carroll. All images by Elspeth Moore.