Live Review – Vök @ The Cuban Embassy
The Cuban Embassy
Review by SdM
Vök’s attack on the senses began in earnest from the start. The volume increased noticeably – even the pre-show music was pumping out the decibels. Vök turned it up even further and were intending, I presume, to rattle your fillings out. It didn’t end there – the stage was littered with columns of LED lights. Before the band stood on stage the LED lights were an eye-blistering white so when you closed your eyes all you could see were white dots. When Vok began to play the LED lights danced, flickered and undulated in all sorts of patterns and colours. This just meant when closing your eyes you now had multi-coloured spots imprinted in your retina. But hey, this is no evening of soft mellow jazz anymore than it is a tea and scones on the lawn. So yeah, put up with the temporary blindness and hearing loss and get on with it.
Vök are touring as a three piece. Singer Margrét plays keyboards, guitar and bass. She also bashes a drum-pad with magical drumsticks that light up when they hit. Andri plays mainly bass but switches to guitar for some tracks. He also serves as a go between for Margrét handing her a guitar and placing it back when done. Andri gets it wrong on one occasion and attempts to handover a guitar mid-song. Placing it back with a smile he shares the joke with watching drummer Einar, now desperately trying to control his laughter.
The trio are touring in support of the recent release of their second album ‘In The Dark’. However they kick off with the enjoyable off-kilter electro-warbling of ‘Breaking Bones’ followed by the far more upbeat song ‘B.T.O’, also from the first album ‘Figure’. Following a quick hello it’s the first of the new tunes, the dancey bass-funk groove and title track, ‘In The Dark’.
Needless to say the Cuban Embassy is packed. It may be a Sunday but there are a few hours left in this weekend and this sold-out show had a great atmosphere. Vök have more than a little sound of 90’s dance music about them. Among the more modern beats and sounds there are hints of acid-jazz dwelling among the electro-synth dream-pop. Gentle echoes of hypnotic melody blend with huge swathes of atmospheric ambient sounds; and darker shades from urban dance grooves are fused together into a mesmerising and immersive sound. There’s not much interaction from the band and Margrét keeps the talking to a minimum. What you do get is a near non-stop 50 minutes of Vök house party – and it is one experience not to be missed.
The band leave the stage to mechanical synth and percussion that seemed determined to shake the very last of your bones to the core. Assault on the senses it may have been, but of the many impressions made, when your hearing and vision return to normal, is the memory of an astonishing gig by any measure. There were various shouts for more from around the audience but for me, and I suspect many others, we were more than satisfied with the gig, and very happy for a good sit down and time to recover.
Support act Kudu Blue were playing to a ‘home crowd’ of sorts – lead singer Clem, and, as we later found out, bassist Tom are originally from Birmingham. The Brighton based band are creating a glorious mix of Massive Attack-like beats and attitude, with a Portishead-like atmosphere and creative invention.
Sumptuous analog synth sounds, both bass and lead, abound adding elements of authentic 70’s funk and style. Exquisite bass playing is added to sophisticated drum rhythms to create a fresh take on dance music. The constructed groove is thoroughly captivating and infectious – the dazzling ‘Premonitions’ quite simply stunned. Lead singer Clem similarly impressed with her soulful and impassioned vocal. Squeezed onto the edge of the stage she even managed her best at dancing and encouraged us to do our best too.
It’s easy to imagine Kudu Blue filling the dance area at a festival or simply entertaining anyone with a penchant for great dance tunes, great live bands and astonishing musicianship.