Tag: Empathy Test


With their new album ‘Looking Skyward’, MESH alleviated any fears that they might not be have been able to sustain the artistic momentum following the success of 2013’s ‘Automation Baby’.

With the final show of an intensive European jaunt, this continued with a confident and impressive London show that drew from much of ‘Looking Skyward’. Along for the ride were AESTHETIC PERFECTION and EMPATHY TEST.

The latter have been much talked about as electronic pop’s new saviours but from the moment they opened with ‘Kirrilee’, their overall sound came over as hollow and steadfast. Singer Isaac Howlett once arrogantly boasted in an interview that EMPATHY TEST rarely rehearsed… from his attempts at soaring vocals on ‘Demons’, it showed.

Giving the crowd a welcome wake up were AESTHETIC PERFECTION, the project of LA based musician Daniel Graves.

His earlier Aggrotech has become much more melodic over the years and his short set accompanied by energetic synthesist Elliot Berlin featured songs from the recent 2015 reboot of ‘Blood Spills Not Far From The Wound’ as well as some of AESTHETIC PERFECTION’s more accessible material.

The vibrant ‘Antibody’ made an ideal opener, while the brilliant ‘Vapor’ was a perfect future disco moment. ‘The Little Death’ amusingly showcased Graves’ schizophrenic approach to vocals which were bizarrely one part Darren Hayes / two parts Marilyn Manson…

While his vocal style polarised some, what couldn’t be denied was the production quality of his meaty backing tracks. This was particularly evident on an impressive ‘Big Bad Wolf’ where Graves declared to the object of his desire that they were “good enough to eat”.

When the MESH live band of Mark Hockings, Rich Silverthorn, Sean Suleman and Lord Richard Broadhead finally took to the stage, it was to a tremendous roar with the quartet satisfyingly opening with ‘My Protector’, a tune with a synth line that captured the raw energy of classic MESH.

The superb B-side ‘Paper Thin’ was amusingly interrupted by a barrage of paper aeroplanes using the template that was one of the extras in the ‘Looking Skyward’ deluxe box set.

Meanwhile, there was the return of the glorious ‘Little Missile’ from the ‘Who Watches Over Me’ album of 2002 when MESH were signed to a Sony Music subsidiary and label mates with Karl Bartos.

The crowd were treated to further ‘Looking Skyward’ highlights in ‘The Ride’ and ‘Runway’, but as a close musical relative to ‘Just Leave Us Alone’, the trance laden ‘Last One Standing’ took the live engagement to another level with a dynamic LED show complimenting proceedings.

The Schaffel stomp of ‘Kill Your Darlings’ kept those into the more rockier side of MESH happy while the powerful triplet driven ‘The Fixer’ delivered another of those poignant statements from the reliably emotive Hockings that “you can’t change the picture if you break the frame”.

‘Friends Like These’ appropriately celebrated the camaraderie that the MESH faithful have now developed in support of their heroes, while to finish the main set, ‘Taken For Granted’ provided Hockings and Silverthorn with their own ‘Never Let Me Down Again’ which ended with a neo-acapella singalong from the crowd.

After the first encore ‘From This Height’, a disintegrating PA system totally ruined ‘Born To Lie’, but Hockings shouted to his colleagues to play on and such was the band’s undoubted professionalism to soldier on, their self-respect remained fully intact.

With only a few songs from ‘Automation Baby’ remaining and their best song ‘Crash’ now omitted too, MESH can hold their heads up high having successfully transferred their difficult acclaimed album follow-up into a fine live show. ‘Automation Baby’ outstripped DEPECHE MODE’s ‘Delta Machine’ by a long way in 2013.

What are the chances that the soon-to-be announced effort from the Basildon boys won’t even be able to hold a candle next to ‘Looking Skyward’?

With thanks to Richard Silverthorn

MESH ‘Looking Skyward’ is released by Dependent Records




Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Richard Price and Chi Ming Lai
4th October 2016

SOS#2 Festival at Electrowerkz

The cancellation of Alt-Fest in August 2014 sent shockwaves around the alternative music scene.

Although the fantasy festival approach had led some to read between the lines and anticipate that the event was never going to take place, many put faith in supporting the scene and fellow music enthusiasts.

Quite why people were prepared to commit themselves to a live promoter who had no acknowledged record of organising an event of this magnitude still remains a mystery… the initial crowdfunding exercise should have rung alarm bells as to the lack of liquid funds to run Alt-Fest.

If only the organisers had learned to walk before they ran and opted for something more manageable… so acts from many shores, like AESTHETIC PERFECTION, CLAN OF XYMOX and AGONIZE who had pre-arranged to come to the UK, now had nowhere to play. Coming to the rescue were Flag Promotions who promptly hosted everyone at Electrowerkz in London. Fittingly named SOS, the event was a success and prompted a second instalment for 2015.

This year’s first night was headlined by Seattle’s ASSEMBLAGE 23 with support from ANALOG ANGEL and a host of other combos of varying electro and alternative persuasions in two rooms.

Opening SOS#2 in the electro section was new act TREGENZA, who sounded nothing like how they looked.

The combo surprised those present to a cover of ‘The Partisan’, a song made famous by Leonard Cohen and with the solemn militaristic grandeur of ‘Born Into Fire’, it was a promising performance.

EMPATHY TEST have been much talked about and on paper have all the ingredients. In a currently weakened British scene, they have stood out with their hipster credentials, good looks and brooding synth sound. But even with a song like ‘Kirrilee’, there is something missing. Like STRANGERS before them in 2012, EMPATHY TEST are not MIRRORS, or even the current UK benchmark EAST INDIA YOUTH. However, a small enthusiastic following was rooting for them all the way through their set.

VIVIEN GLASS on the other hand made much more of an impact, from their co-ordinated stage presentation to their dark, punchy synthpop.

With a syncopated groove on their better songs like ’Black Magic’ and ‘Julius’ offset by moody female lead vocals, they are perhaps this year’s FUTURE PERFECT.

Their debut album ‘Awake My Sleeper’ was a mixed bag, so the new one ‘Jura’ out in September is awaited with interest.

With D-K-A-G being a rather generic EBM Industrial band who shouted “DAS” rather a lot, it was time to make a sharp exit. Welcome relief came in the downstairs alternative rock room where RED SUN REVIVAL provided some of the chromatic Gothic resonance that gave ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN some crossover appeal in the ‘Ocean Rain’ years.

Very much originally part of the Industrial scene up to 2011, an introduction of melodic synthpop elements has given ANALOG ANGEL a much more expansive template which has widened their appeal. The recent support slot for KRAFTWERK legend Wolfgang Flür and tonight’s spirited crowd singalong to ‘We Won’t Walk Away’ was evidence of that. And there was also a cheer of recognition for ‘When You Called My Name’, the song that signalled ANALOG ANGEL’s move into more synthpop based territory.

After a slight delay, ASSEMBLAGE 23 took to the stage and despite the jet lag, Tom Shear was on good form with Paul Seegers sternly controlling the backing. While A23’s stomping numbers like ‘Let Me Be Your Armor’ pleased the faithful, it was the emotive ‘Damaged’ from 2007’s ‘Meta’ and 2009’s superbly spacey futurepop of ‘Spark’ that stole the show.

Having released their first recordings in 1998, a few acts could learn from ASSEMBLAGE 23’s resilience and humility with regards maintaining an audience and surviving in the modern music industry

It was a packed evening although some rightly quibbled that the running order was far too crammed, with schedule clashes and little time for punters to properly mingle between acts, other than a glancing hello. But SOS#2 was entertaining and enlightening, providing a much needed platform for independently minded electronic music.

With thanks to Flag Promotions








Text and photos by Chi Ming Lai
9th August 2015