Subtle Control
San Diego Hideout
Oct 2015
Live Review

Subtle Control facebook page

I have seen a future – one man with elongated earrings and stern glasses driving his bass to swooping melodic highs and lows along to cassette loops and great vocals. He is captivating by singing great songs that capture the sombre undertow of living in heartbreak America where melancholia lurks in the shadows just out of reach from the fierce sun.

If the great pop music is about capturing a mood and a moment and somehow making a fragile beauty with a great backbeat and nailing it with the power of technology and then driving it with noise and machinery then this is perfect pop. A Ballard pop.

In these economy drive times a one piece band is the ultimate in financial and practical portability, that is if you can play like an octopus and Subtle Control has that multi talented ability as he switches the cassettes of his rhythm tracks and plays his bass and sings over the top. It sounds like it shouldn’t work but it works perfectly. And it sounds hi tech and swoopingly thrilling.

You would have thought that there was not much you could do with a one man band but he delivers a stunning set of dark, bass driven neo pop that is captivating and swirling with the dark matter of all great melancholic pop.

Somehow he conjures up the same sort of dark plateaus of a dark wave take on that cusp between Joy Division of New Order- music built around the bass is always a winner for me and the instrument’s four strings and deep, dark resonant tones are cranked with a bit of grit to make up for a perfect melodic and mournful rush. Playing two strings as one creates the rhythm, the drone and the lead and locks in tight with the rhythm tracks which are taken from computer games and 8 bit.

On top there is the voice, plaintive and pure – perfect pop for the now dealing in some seriously brilliant stuff and even if the set is only three songs long it’s a great example of taking advantage of the limitations and creating whole sonic visas out of having your hands tied. These songs merge melody and mood and it’s hard to believe that will be here for long breaking out these mini sets in small venue bars…

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Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.


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