A recent comment on Strong Asian Mothers’ Facebook page reads: “the name is highly deceiving”. Quite what the objector is expecting the band’s moniker to represent isn’t clear, but no doubt he was once as confused by Freddie Mercury singing the praises of fat-bottomed girls, and it was this famed lyrical sample that opened SAM’s Finsbury show. It kickstarted an instrumental that encapsulated much of the finest, phattest elements of the performance to follow: multilayers of iPad- and synth-generated floor-shaking sequences, shapely jerk-funk beats and, notably for such a digitalist act, searing horn interjections courtesy of an unassuming stage-left trumpeter. His, and the drummer’s heavyweight zig-zag tub-thumping, which at times could have serviced a Royal Blood track were the accompanying riffs more monolithic, neatly embellished a set that was largely pre-programmed. This included many of the vocal parts, leaving SAM’s two livewire frontmen to function as backing harmonists and animated tech ops activating the chart-chummy electronica and thinking-man’s R&B mashup. Infused with a wry irony reflected in such tunes as the closing opus to fast food, ‘Chicken’, Strong Asian Mothers were polishing a quirky, classy and saleable sound that is luring savvy onlookers.
There were more loops and backing tracks to follow from another four-piece, Sweden’s Simian Ghost but, along with more considered facial hair and added diffidence, the balance was weighted firmly in favour of the analogue, the tech touches an enhancement to twee indie-guitar pop, given clout by the strength of its melodic inspiration. A dusting of Grandaddy-like vocal lines floated atop lovely dripping guitar arpeggios, tubular samples and loping McCartney basslines. Simian Ghost’s sprawling songs crafted a wall of audio nougat, a pleasing melange that spurred one audience member to gift singer Sebastian Arnström a mid-set beer. Arnström’s stilted between-tunes banter was a blot on the mellifluousness, his under-the-weather demeanour at odds with the polka-dot sonics. Perhaps he should follow the lead of one Freddie Mercury who, as the aforementioned lyrics attest, was a master of faux sincerity when required; a canny tool for any frontman hoping to go the extra mile.
Words by Nick Mee. Follow @Nickjmee on Twitter
Live photography by Carolina Faruolo. View more of her work at cfarulo.com