Underground Sex Games for Geeksby Roger Young, images by Liam Lynch / 05.11.2010
Off to the side, at the edge of the range of the smoke machine is a skinny drummer on an electric kit that looks like some kind of complicated exercise machine. Stage center is an undercutted epileptic dude wearing my older sisters clothes from the mid 80s banging away at glowing devices; the smoke machine directed through his crotch. Both of them have really badly made tin foil Donnie Darko-esque masks on. They’re putting out something that sounds like a Sisters of Mercy track covered by Lamb. Then she comes out through the smoke; all teeth, shoulder pads and lace, singing in a held back cutesy squeaky gasp and moving like a child’s illustration of a mother dancing, but animated by a blind person. This is the Frown; a post glitch mish mash of half remembered ideas from early childhood coupled with a forced disgust at any normal notion of performance that results in a quietly fractured beauty.
Tings and Times is fairly empty; maybe thirty people are sitting at the tables with at least half of them being friends or curious music industry peripheral types like myself and Liam Lynch, who describes them as “zeitgiest on crack” and then, when, by the second track, I realise that I should be covering this gig, offers to shoot some snaps on his iPhone. Essentially as captivating and potty mouthed the singer chick, Eve Rakow, is off stage, the last few gigs I’ve seen her perform with gizmo guy Tim Apter have been a little underwhelming. It’s the addition of Max Lehr on drums that take The Frown into another realm entirely; even now still not totally formed, not totally free of Eve’s Bjork/Coco Rosie influences, the Frown are determinedly growing into their own collective personality.
Rakow hardly moves on stage, throwing art fag poses and hiding behind her evil with a touch of cutesy persona. Apter flings himself around like an electrocuted monkey and Lehr looks like he’s training hard for some kind of underground sex game for geeks. The music bangs, bleeps and stutters; alternatively gentle and attacking. Rakow sings like she’s been dragged though the city by a cancer–ridden unicorn. Some are going to accuse Rakow of being Inge Beckmann-like, but the only similarity is that neither of them sings traditionally. As different as The Frown are compared to anything else on the scene right now; for the most part their songs are that of a new band still exploring their identity. But even though in the first part of the set the songs are a little samey, their weird energy captivates most of the people in the room. Post rock support band Tales Of The Son are, however, not that captivated and start carrying their equipment across the front of stage in a show of either disgust or indifference. The empty dancefloor between the tables and stage only exaggerates The Frown’s willful separation from standard forms of expression; they’re a little island of determined angry strangeness with a hint of toilet sex.
The real promise of The Frown comes over in songs like Off a repetitive chanting over a building rhythms and electronic smooshyness; and what might as well be their anthem The National with it’s opening line “We are not like you, our parts are not held together with the same glue”. The combination of Apter’s sometimes tinkely, sometimes pounding but always dark electronica and Lehr’s rolling massive drums with Rakow’s staccato paced voice blend into a complete world that transcends all the influences so evident at the beginning of the set. With a bleak and fragile hypnosis they mesmerize and confound. Slow motion in the synthetic smoke, The Frown inch toward themselves, all heartbreakingly corrosive and devastatingly alluring.
*All images © Liam Lynch.