Former Ash guitarist and girl-next-door solo artist, Charlotte Hatherley has turned out wicked. With a new edgy attitude including mystical pseudonym, it’s like we never knew her at all. Sylver Tongue, the feathered cape wearing incarnation we see before us now in the concrete bunker of East London venue Birthdays, is a dark, vixenish character. Her short six-song set is all theatre, but less pyrotechnics and pomp, more performance and swagger, glitter and fur, seduction and sci-fi.
Cloaked in inspiration from the ’70s, Hatherley brings layers of synth, echoing hand claps and discordant guitars together to evoke an eerie feeling of other-worldlyness and creepy sexuality. At times, her voice summons Bonnie Tyler visions, especially in the awkwardly named ‘Space Paranoia’, that despite its cheese-laden title, is disturbingly engaging.
Hatherley finishes her set with recent release ‘Creatures’ in which she sings, in a style that moves from girlish highs to deep, aching drone, of beings with “defiant eyes” crawling into her bed and pushing into her breast. My, my, it’s getting a little hot in here and the panting from onstage is not helping. Having successfully whipped her audience into a glowing frenzy, she’s gone in a flash: her mystery continues.
Keeping with the sci-fi theme, though perhaps not intentionally, Brooklyn boys Bear In Heaven announce their arrival with ‘Idle Heart’, scanning waves of sound wash over the crowd, a spacecraft preparing for take-off. Drums and bass kick in and Jon Philpott sings, “she’s a long gone Demerol”. At least, that’s what he’s supposed to be singing. Drowned out by thick, heavy bass, the nuances of the song are lost in cloying reverberation. It takes three songs and a hugely disappointing version of ‘Sinful Nature’ before someone suggests the bass take a backseat. Frontman Philpott, a riotous vision of manic dancing and uncapped energy, seems unimpressed by this development, but for the audience death-by-bass is not the way this should go.
How it should go is like this – surreal, exuberant pop; sweet, sometimes detached vocals, dissolving into the music; all encompassing, huge tunes that struggle to be contained in the room. Pulsing, percussion-heavy tracks; flashing neon lights dancing with more restraint than Philpott who calls on the crowd to “dance with me” at the height of the surprisingly tender ‘Reflection of You’. His call to arms is heeded by a few at the front, touched by the magical melange of psycedelica, krautrock and of course, the glue of electronica. The trio’s passion and utter abandon is more infectious than their twinkling, atmospheric sounds, their pure joy resonates even more than their summery, glossed indie.