AESTHETIC PERFECTION is American musician Daniel Graves, and in what could be seen as an anti-TALK TALK style career trajectory, his once aggressive Industrial sound has gradually evolved over four albums to become more melodically commercial.
Hardcore followers of his first two albums have welcomed this new direction with about as much love as a SLAYER fan receiving a press release saying that the band had embraced Christianity.
To his credit, Graves has doggedly stuck to his guns and tonight was a chance to showcase material from his new album ‘Til Death’. The album itself is a tour-de-force of monophonic synth hooks, earworm choruses melded with the occasional dark lyric like “I want to feel your heartbeat next to mine, left alone in a bodybag”.
Before AESTHETIC PERFECTION took to the Underworld stage, the crowd was treated to the entertaining spectacle of Germany’s FADERHEAD. Despite one of their band members Marco Visconti being hospitalized early on in the tour and their back projections packing up one song into their set, Mohawked front man Sami Yahya still managed to have the Camden audience eating and literally drinking out of his hand, passing his vodka bottle around and spraying it liberally into the front few rows.
FADERHEAD’s music is never going to win any awards for originality, being a sort of COMBICHRIST-lite EBM with big, dumb sloganeering shout-along titles (sample titles ‘Swedish Models and Cocaine’ and ‘Fistful of F*** You’), but their set and blinding light show pushed the buttons for those who like a jump around party vibe for their electronic music.
Expanded to a three piece for the live arena, atmospheric album opener ‘Happily Ever After’ kick started the AESTHETIC PERFECTION show, making good use of Tim van Horn’s precision military-style drumming and the first portion of the set leaned heavily on new material including singles ‘Antibody’, ‘Big Bad Wolf’ and ‘The Dark Half’ from ‘Til Death’ and the YAZOO goes Aggrotech ‘Inhuman’ from ‘All Beauty Destroyed’.
Graves is an energetic and charismatic frontperson, eschewing the trend of the generic militaristic EBM vocalist in favour of a look that evoked part Malcolm McDowell and part child catcher in ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’, constantly stalking the stage, striking foot on monitor poses.
A mention must also go to synth player Elliot Berlin who spent much of the set risking life and limb to climb his keyboard stand and balance on his Nord Lead whilst attempting to hang off the Underworld ceiling! Standout tracks also aired from ‘Til Death’ included the fiendishly hooky ‘Lights Out (Ready to Go)’ with its ‘Girls on Film’ inspired chord and vocal progression and the, ahem, darker ‘New Black’ with its Kraftwerkian vocoder sections.
As the set progressed, older material which showcased AP’s more aggressive Industrial roots started to filter in, with ‘The Great Depression’ from ‘A Violent Emotion’ and a final one-two punch of ‘Schadenfreude’ and ‘Spit It Out’ climaxing the evening, the latter songs dispensing with sung musical vocal hooks and replaced by the post-hardcore screaming which made up most of ‘Close to Human’ and ‘A Violent Emotion’. Although partially hampered by a sound mix that meant several of the bass sequences were overwhelmed by some of the DAF-style live drums, this was none-the-less a powerhouse performance from an act who are viewed by some as one of electronic music’s best kept secrets.
It’s apparent here that Graves (to use one of his songtitles) has a Dark Half and two sides to his musical personality which have informed AESTHETIC PERFECTION’s musical evolution. In a not too distant parallel universe, Daniel Graves should probably be songwriting for überpop stars like LADY GAGA and KATY PERRY (such is the strength of his pop sensibility and writing skills – ‘Big Bad Wolf’ could quite easily be covered by a mainstream artist), but has instead chosen to evolve AESTHETIC PERFECTION to suit his current writing style.
To many, the Industrial scene is dying a slow death, its distorted 909 kicks and pseudo-trance riffs now sound dated and what was once seen as the darkest, most aggressive form of electronic music has now been replaced by dubstep and the harder streams of EDM. However, at the heart of the new tracks played tonight there still remains a darkness and Graves himself has said “People may say the anger is gone, but it’s not, it’s just bubbling underneath the surface”.
An artist who is prepared to risk their musical career for something which he or she truly believes in should be admired, especially within a music industry which is in a constant state of flux and AESTHETIC PERFECTION followers will be hoping that there will be plenty more challenging and quality electronic music to come with a ‘Happily Ever After’ ending to the story…
‘Til Death’ is released by Metropolis Records
Their European tour continues on the following dates:
Munich Backstage (25 Feb), Zurich X-Tra Limmathaus (26 Feb), Glauchau Alte Spinnerei (28 Feb), Frankfurt Das Bett (2 March), Hannover Engel 07 (4 March), Berlin Magnet Club (5 March), Malmo Babel (7 March), Hamburg Markthalle (8 March), Athens Second Skin Club (14 March), St. Petersburg Backstage Club (15 March), Moscow Rockhouse (16 March)
Text and Photos by Paul Boddy
23rd February 2014