Mike Atkinson

The Invisible – Nottingham Bodega Social Club, Wednesday March 10.

Posted in Bodega, gigs, Nottingham Post by Mike A on March 11, 2010

Imagine the thrill of having your debut album nominated for the prestigious Mercury Music Prize. Now imagine the disappointment of playing to fewer than thirty people, on the second date of your UK tour, six months after losing out to Speech Debelle (hardly a roaring success in her own right, it has to be said).

To The Invisible’s great credit, the three players – singer/guitarist and jazz-fusion veteran Dave Okumu, bassist/keyboardist Tom Herbert and occasional Hot Chip drummer Leo Taylor – didn’t let the lack of punters stand in the way of putting in a powerful, authoritative performance. Instead, they absorbed the situation with relaxed good humour (“We’re not going to start playing until you all leave the room”), and proceeded to focus on the task in hand, displaying an impressive musical range which spanned from angsty, tense, doom-laden indie-rock to lithe, taut, choppy funk.

So engrossed were the band in the complex, rhythmically overlapping textures of their final number Jacob and the Angel – the sort of music that has you swaying blissfully from side to side, eyes closed, head tilted back – that they remained unfazed by the collapse of a young man at the front of the room. Thankfully he returned for the encore, smiling and seemingly unscathed.

The Invisible are exactly the sort of band that you would expect to be championed on BBC 6Music. If the corporation’s bean-counting bosses make good on their threats and the station is axed, it will become even tougher to find an audience large enough to sustain their career. So if you have stumbled across this review online, and if you are wondering whether to take a punt on one of the other shows on the tour, do both yourself and The Invisible a favour, and lend your support to this admirable and unfairly overlooked band.

Unicorn Kid – Nottingham Rescue Rooms, Thursday March 4.

Posted in gigs, Nottingham Post, Rescue Rooms by Mike A on March 5, 2010

It’s not often that the third act on the bill, on stage within twenty minutes of the doors opening, can whip a crowd up into such a seething, euphoric frenzy. But for Unicorn Kid, the alter ego of 18 year old Oli Sabin from Edinburgh, such scenes are becoming commonplace.

Unicorn Kid made his first breakthrough in the middle of last year, when he was asked to remix Did You See Me Coming for the Pet Shop Boys. Since then, he has supported Owl City across the USA, Calvin Harris in Edinburgh and Messrs Tennant and Lowe at a major arena show in Glasgow. With over 30,000 friends on MySpace and a newly signed deal with the Ministry Of Sound label, 2010 is his for the taking. His debut album is set for an autumn release, and a couple of collaborations with big name vocalists are also looking more than likely.

The Unicorn Kid house style is based around an almost ridiculously exuberant reworking of super-fast hardcore techno, sweetened with tumbling, intricate melody lines that are constantly twisting and evolving. The music never descends into mindless repetition, and the overall effect is optimistic, energising and life-affirming.

Old favourites such as Lion Hat and Wee Monsters were accompanied by new material which stretched the template, taking the music into new areas. A slower, dubstep-influenced track, whose title has yet to be confirmed, should be coming out as a free download within the next few weeks.

Fifteen years ago, music of this rhythmic intensity would have formed the soundtrack for long nights of chemical excess. These days, its natural constituency is a teenage audience who aren’t even old enough to drink – for although the gig was a sell-out, the bar was clear for service all night.

Headlining the show, the dance-punk band Hadouken! took the night to even further extremes of wild abandon – but for future success and impact (could a Nineties dance revival be just around the corner?), the smart money has to be on Unicorn Kid.