If provoking a reaction is the hallmark of a compelling artist, then there was not one but two artists that met this criteria on a rather grisly evening at Green Door Store in Brighton for the Maria Minerva show. And for two very different reasons.
Playing in almost complete darkness with only a dimly lit fire exit sign and the glare of an Mac Book for illumination, support act Moses Gold certainly raised a few eyebrows from the get go. In the midst of the darkness stood the shadowy figure of Phil Young (aka Moses Gold). He stalked around the room in front of the stage, his face obscured with only the outline of his stature visible. The eerie set up seemed to spook the audience into silence. They didn’t clap for almost the entirety of the show. Not because it was a bad performance. The tension was so overwhelming yet fragile, you didn’t want to break it.
It was frighteningly exciting start and the cold thrill continued throughout. Young’s voice cascaded between Ian Curtis’ macabre drone to Dave Gahan (Depeche Mode) sinister operatics. Disarming lyrical themes of depression and contrition seem all the more pertinent in this style. The murky tone has also manifested itself in the reverberating synths and festering beats from producer Espher, who’s crouched behind a laptop in the middle of the stage. He takes lead vocals for one of his own tracks whilst Young sits on his knee with his back to the audience, rocking back and forth for added theatrics. If perpetually living in the bleakest of winters had a sound then this would probably be it. It’s a reflection of Young’s battles with mental health problems which he has openly talked about in past interviews. It’s powerful and challenging, with the potential to resonate and inspire. If only all support bands could be this darn good.
In stark contrast Moses Gold, Maria Minerva has a much sunnier but chaotic disposition. The disordered approach was in part due to technical difficulties as projected visual failed to materialize. Minerva keep looking around for signs of hope but eventually gave up and mockingly lamented “It’s only 6 years of an art project”. To begin with, this left a cognitive dissonance with the funky oddities emanating from the speakers and as a result the largely static crowd started to thin. For those that stuck around Minerva’s strengths soon came to life.
Her early years behind the iron curtain in Soviet Estonia act as a filter through which Western pop culture references are blended with fun and often intriguing results. Strange sounds gradually build on top of each other whilst quotes from the Twilight Saga and looped samples of Abba’s Dancing Queen are thrown into the melting pot. At one point, bizarrely, she even starts singing the main refrain from the Spice Girls 2 Become 1. She huddles round the table of equipment like a mad scientist frantically hitting the buttons on the sampler or erratically twisting knobs on her synthesizer. When she comes out from behind, her dancing is just as strange, and awkward, but captivating to watch. You haven’t seen or heard anything quite like it. Just as you’ve started to understand it all: the humour, the culture clashing and all her other idiosyncrasies, it ends without warning. She stops and asks the sound guy to play “some interlude music” by way of noting that it was in fact the end. It was a jarring ending to what was a challenging yet fruitful evening.
Words: Woody Whyte