AATMA, Manchester

When it’s not your ears that hurt after a gig, but your feet – that tends to be more of a positive indicator. That was certainly the case for me following Manchester-born record label AnalogueTrash’s take-over (presenting a range of artists on their label) of Northern Quarter venue AATMA, as part of the city’s Sonder Festival – now in its second year. This was a night where well-executed, immersive sound came together with tremendous beats for 5-bands worth of dancing amidst a highly diverse crowd.

The tucked-away venue of AATMA developed an air of mystery and intrigue – an enticing atmosphere well-suited to the dark electronica and glistening guitars the growing crowd were to be treated to – already building well by 7pm. The first on the bill was Room 1985 – a duo who are a new signing to AnalogueTrash and immersed the crowd in a creative web of psychedelic space-rock fed through synths and unfurled with some of the most impressive, moving vocals of the evening. The creative combination of John Hulse and Chris Crysand is one to stand strong, I think – and Chris also a member of ded.pixel, highlighting a real diversity in his sound.

Room 1985 were a fitting introduction to the night, affirming to the audience that their role was not just to observe, but to experience. This certainly was the case as next came St Lucifer, a group of four also from Manchester who flung themselvluc2es from any limitations of physical space with intense electronica overlaid with hot, heavy guitar. In light of guitarist David Fox injuring his hand – and indeed, he still went for a glistening guitar solo which resonated in its raw relentlessness – guitarist of Syd.31 Charlotte Wincombe also stepped in for some of the tracks, seizing the stage with the outshining ability to turn strings and a fretboard into a seething wave of wonderful noise.

St Lucifer’s vocalist Alex Lee continues to grow in confidence – gravitating attention and even the audience’s conscience right into the core of the music – leaping from the stage and taking to the floor as if utterly possessed by the power of the beats from drummer Charlie Bergmann, all brought together by the dark groove of John Mitchell’s bass. Driven by a strong body of tracks and an incensed crowd, songs like Van Der Lubbe Was Innocent and God Is Love latched onto the movement of limbs for an electrifying set – and I particularly enjoyed the double-drumming intensity shared between Alex and Charlie for The Enemy.

This was followed by ded.pixel, a group of three from North Manchester bringing apocalyptic electronica you can be creative to. A new track Quisling was especially captivating, and their brave use of new material projected a spiralling soundscape, which started off with layers of optimism before opening up more capacity for reflection with dark tones – driven by the energy of all musicians coming together within a web of synth. These are tunes which mould and move new listening experiences.

Next were Def Neon, travelling from Wrexham and bringing techno-turbed-up guitar pieces with gutluc3sy female vocals from Emily Gresham. These were the type of tracks which had the audience threshing and thrashing on the floor, yet with an incredible pop edge which is a point making Def Neon’s sound so pleasing. Stand-out performances were a particularly punchy version of Chocolate which descended into an air-thumping chant, and Nightvision which seethed with electronic mastery from Michael Harmina, infused with energy.

Def Neon’s energy was an important precursor to the final fix of the evening – the captivating electropunks who are the boundary-shattering Syd.31. The 4-piece stormed the stage with the turbulent, ear-turning noise of Beware Of The Gods – a glistening, political piece packed with power and electronic energy from Dani Graves. Yet they also proved their diversity on a night like this, and had the crowd in the biggest collective movement of the evening, a floor full of people jigging and pulsing as part of their highly-energetic track Future Ska. Charlotte Wincombe wielded guitar for the second immersive time that night, as the atmosphere thickened and the audience were electrified right up until a final farewell tune – the highly creative cover of Mr Vain, vamped up with Dr Magic’s signature raw vocals and Kara Wolf’s drums thundering home for the finish. A fantastic end to a highly diverse night – which, testament to the success of the festival – had a new crowd streaming in from the street and getting involved with the music. What a ‘festival feel’ is all about – part of a weekend of events from Sonder Festival (30th June – 2nd July)


All words by Emily Oldfield
Photography by Nick Benke




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