In BBC4’s ‘Synth Britannia’ doc, prolific music writer Simon Reynolds contends that 1980s electronica acts developed a ‘fire and ice’ template, wherein a boffin figure handled the technology while a passionate female or gay male vocalist provided the sensual drama. Think Yazoo, Soft Cell et al. It’s a formula that Mano’s Daughter adhere to, contemporising the image thanks to their man behind the Moog who, in stubble and distinctive tee, resembles the hip guy from your office IT department. But over and above knowing where to locate the restart button, Matthias Garrick’s expertise at sequencing steady binary beats and hefty cadences was clear, as was his musicality – sublime keyboard runs colourised his act’s cyborg sheen as much as the heartfelt reverb-drenched vocal of Sarah Carter, who injected range into the duo’s downtempo balladry. Touches of Portishead’s ethereal chill leaked into a brooding sentimentality popularised by the likes of BANKS, leading to dense slab of moody modernism, occasionally so widescreen that the songs' abrupt endings came as a disconcerting jolt. And as well-conceived as each tune was, the set never really changed gear, its constant loping pulse rendering it somewhat repetitive. Mixing up the BPM here and there wouldn’t have gone amiss on this Saturday night.
If Mano’s Daughter maxed out the melancholy, Yurs bounced in from the other end of the emotional spectrum, a sunny blast of poppy tuneage that had the crowd jumping from first number to last. Their two frontmen sharing guitar and vocals were embellished by keys, bass and drums, with four of the five-piece spreading delicious harmonies around a powerful tenor, leaving traces of Byrds here, Monkees there. Direct comparisons to such giants would plainly be overdoing it just yet, but those layered voices are a wonderful card to play, and terrifically crafted numbers like ‘I’m Allowed’ had instant impact. In the main, the group drew on the finer stuff of noughties indie, a combination of catchy riffs, the lightness of touch of good-vibe American guitar bands and, most obviously, the effervescent dexterity of Supergrass, an outfit whose versatility was key to their success. Judging by this Finsbury show, Yurs also have the proficiency to change direction with ease, a quality that should scream commercial viability. Yurs ‘oping, anyway (bad closing pun should be read with a Westcountry accent for full effect).
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