Wednesday 17 April 2013

Autre Ne Veut @ Birthdays, Dalston

The live drums shuddered, the bass and synths rumbled through the speakers, and the strong female backing vocals oozed sensuality.

Yet it was Arthur Ashin’s vocals that were most remarkable.  Autre Ne Veut is the brainchild of New Yorker Ashin and this gig saw him performing tracks from his latest album 'Anxiety' (pictured).  Performed live, ‘Anxiety’ becomes a different beast altogether from its recorded counterpart, with a lead vocal performance that will likely split audiences.

Raw and guttural, Ashin stumbled around the stage singing with a rock star growl and husky falsetto, a pile of much needed empty water bottles scattered at the front of the stage.  His passion and devotion to his music absolutely cannot be denied.  His vocal had real power  - both emotionally and in volume – that was particularly apparent once the music dropped down a notch.  The live rendition of World War, initially accompanied solely on piano, was certainly more affecting than on the recording.  More so, Ashin was totally ‘in the zone’, subterraneously deep within the music, the performance filled with dramatic pauses and stares into the audience as if overcome.  Passion often outweighed technique, however.  At times the screeching was overdone, timing and tuning suffering as a result. 

And then he turned to the audience: “You guys are seriously self-serious”.  Ironic though his statement may have been, it was clear throughout the gig some audience members were unsure what to make of the singer.  One person even offered a hushed “awkward” during a particularly long pause.  Yet when Ashin takes himself so seriously, it’s difficult for this not to be reflected by the audience.  Tracks such as Counting might have big choruses and pop hooks amongst the dark R&B production, but when the lyrics are consumed with death (“I’m counting on the idea that you’ll stay alive”) it’s difficult to feel anything but “self-serious”.