The Twilight Sad and Errors are worlds apart. One is exploring post-indie, wall-of-noise melancholy, while the other creates jaunty, kraftwerk-indie electro. They are, however, geographic clansmen, hailing from Glasgow (or, in The Twilight Sad’s case, from nearby Kilsyth, which is basically ‘oot in the sticks’). Their joint headline tour (they take it in turns to headline) ended in Edinburgh on Tuesday, and Spotisfaction were lucky enough to catch them in London’s new XOYO venue on 7 October.
XOYO is a very new venue in Old Street. You know, that part of East London with the tube station, within walking distance of Shoreditch, or Hoxton, or wherever it is the dickheads are hanging out this week. Personally, I don’t subscribe to this completely. Dickheads are everywhere, you don’t need to be in East London, or London at all, to qualify as a dickhead, but they have to go somewhere, and, traditionally, this area is where they tend to congregate. But there are lots of honest people here too, the people who just like music, like art, without all the pretense and pomp and ceremony. Scottishness dictates that the two bands on show tonight are the latter.
Sadly, XOYO is the former; a deeply, deeply cynical venture, the location really is chosen for coolness, and I have to pay Â£4 a ‘pint’ for some average beer after a rugby scrum to get to the bar (I only had one, and won’t be recommending people drink there again), while very little time has been spent on the sound, the room is an emotionless faux-hole and the bands are squeezed onto a stage the size of A4. Initimate my arse. Look at its website. Ugh. You’re not HipsterRunoff. To its credit, I have to commend it on the range of bands and artists they have booked though: Everything Everything were due to play the launch (until it was postponed), the two bands of this article, plus James Yuill, Sleigh Bells and the like. They also have the brass wotsits to book noise legend Merzbow – maybe they know something I don’t about how many will turn up.
But the Kilsyth boys don’t worry about that. They just do what they do – loud, intense, morose, very loud, melancholy, louder still. Sadness never had such a fleshy, full-bodied bleakness to it. Opening with the astounding ‘The Wrong Car’ – the lead track from their newly released EP – intensity is cranked to 11 from start to finish, with the exception of ‘Cold Days From The Bird House‘, with its quiet extended intro serving almost as a solo for singer James Graham, full of Scotch twang and vernacular, a poetic eloquence pitched somewhere between reminiscence and sentimentality (I’m not sure there is a word for the emotion The Twilight Sad evoke at their most poignant). It’s moments like these that make The Twilight Sad seem, to indie and post-rock, what Boards of Canada are to electronica and IDM: to paraphrase Beck, bittersweet, without maiming you with saccharine.
Which makes the double header of The Twilight Sad/Errors an odd pairing musically. It turns out that Errors are headlining tonight’s gig, which is probably an inspired decision, as the majority of people in this East London crowd have, I would say unsurprisingly, turned out more for the bouncy electro of Errors than the dreich of The Twilight Sad. And judging by some of the comments The Twilight Sad retweet, it seems the change from light to dark is a lot harder for many to handle than vice versa.
Thankfully for many in the audience there are no such problems. Moving on to Errors serves us up with danceable, funky indie electro. They don’t engage the crowd much, and are entirely instrumental, concentrating on the important stuff, resulting in a set that is taught, seamless and utterly electrifying.
Acid-house basslines bubble along under layers of plucky guitar and glitchy synths, blurring the line between electronic music and indie in a way few bands have been able to manage. ‘Beards’, is a great example of this, starting out driven by synth melodies and bassline, with the guitar serving as a layer under all the music. But they play with time signatures and tempos, and when the song explodes with heavier usage of guitars later on, it’s not in the slightest bit out of place. They have managed to capture their live energy on record to a startling degree, because the track is great on record, and it’s even better live.
And that’s the key to Errors’ music: it’s both playful and precise – it doesn’t miss a beat. The performance of James Hamilton on drums, both live and on record, cannot be underestimated. Providing the rhythmic backbone to a band that mixes both live and synthised instruments requires real groove, and Hamilton never misses.
Errors are as pulsating and engrossing as The Twilight Sad are, but in startlingly different ways. Both provide intensity, and while one is tight, upbeat and danceable, the other is explosive, dynamic and washed with noise. XOYO just got its arse handed to it.