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Feature: Drab Majesty, SRSQ & Elisabeth Elektra @ Broadcast, 20/09/19

Image credit: Jai DeeConsidering Drab Majesty last came to Glasgow only three months ago, the fact that the L.A. duo have returned to a sold-out show in Broadcast says a lot about their following. Then again, they did release a masterpiece of an album this
Image credit: Jai Dee

Considering Drab Majesty last came to Glasgow only three months ago, the fact that the L.A. duo have returned to a sold-out show in Broadcast says a lot about their following. Then again, they did release a masterpiece of an album this summer – featuring eight reinterpretations of the classic tale of Narcissus, Modern Mirror draws inspiration from Greek mythology to explore self-reflection, heartbreak and identity in the age of modern technology; the result is a collection of emotional synth pop songs to be fallen in love with time and time again.

Despite an early start, I thankfully manage to catch the end of Elisabeth Elektra (fka Zyna Hel)’s set down in the basement, a Glasgow-based electro-pop artist whose influences include Mylene Farmer, Goldfrapp, Madonna and Kate Bush, to name but a few. Dressed like the disco witch that she is, she’s an obvious choice for tonight’s first supporting act, and there’s an undeniable charm about her performance too. As electronic beats ricochet off the walls we’re treated to the celestial sound of her most recent single ‘Obsidian’, a song about loving someone even after they’ve passed away. This is followed by a feminist number about empowering sex workers and witches before ‘Catacombs’ seals the deal – produced by Blanck Mass, this track has a darker and heavier appeal to it that’s rounded out by her cathartic vocals.

That’s when we’re introduced to the voice and personality that is Kennedy Ashlyn (Them Are Us Too) and her solo project SRSQ. Having starred in Drab Majesty’s music video for ‘Oxytocin’, her own sound is described as ‘dreamgaze’ and ‘grating pop for the unfit’, though I’m not sure either one of those descriptions fully does her justice as a live act – throughout the tangible grief in ‘The Martyr’ and the uplifting power of ‘Cherish’, Kennedy punches the air and gives it her all to the point where everything she does is pure expression. There’s a kind of defiance in her way of being that makes her so much more than just a natural performer in that respect, because she’s also brilliantly unique and inspiring to watch. Musically, ‘Permission’ is straight-up sensational as operatic, pitch-shifted vocals and a bouncing rhythm take over the space altogether. Honestly, the whole thing is just enrapturing; here’s hoping she returns soon because she’ll undoubtedly be welcomed back with open arms.

After a quick soundcheck in plain clothes, Andrew Clinco and Alex Nicolaou eventually remerge as their alter egos Deb Demure and Mona D, dressed all in white and looking immaculate as ever. By this point it’s uncomfortably hot in the packed little venue, but the second they launch into their first song it’s like a breath of fresh air. From the gothic overtones of ‘A Dialogue’ to the bitter sweetness of ‘The Other Side’ and ‘Oxytocin’, Drab Majesty’s songs have a transcendent quality about them that never fails to visibly teleport people into their own individual worlds. 

If I’m being honest, though, it’s not quite what I was hoping for compared to their recent show with She Past Away. It could well have something to do with the fact that my ears are blocked from a cold, but for one thing volume seems to be somewhat lacking throughout much of their set. That, and the fact that people keep talking over them – possibly because they can’t see much of the tiny stage -  means that the duo fade into the background at times, which is disappointing when you’d rather be drowning in their music instead of strangers’ conversations.

Still, tonight has one thing that their June gig didn’t, and that’s the inclusion of ‘Ellipsis’ on the setlist. It’s probably the song I’ve listened to the most this year, not least because it’s a euphoric track that somehow manages to describe the frustrations of trying to communicate through social media apps through its title alone (pointing out some of the more isolating effects of technology may not be a novel concept in itself, but there’s something refreshingly upfront about the line “And I watch you write/You’re still saying nothing”). During their last visit Andrew previously explained to me that they were still working on a live version for ‘Ellipsis’ at the time, and though I was sad not to hear it back then, the fact that they throw in a new guitar riff in the outro of this live version is just another reason why it was worth the wait.

Things definitely improve towards the end once the room's chat finally dies down. Deb breaks his silence to tell us that “Glasgow is the best city in the UK” – a statement that is of course met in true Glaswegian fashion with a round of “F*** the Queen!”, “F*** the Pope!” and “Taps aff” – and ‘Out of Sequence’ is frankly every bit as sublime live as it is on the album. Regardless of their alien appearance, Drab Majesty write beautiful songs that make you feel glad to be a living, breathing human being, and while it may not have been the show I was expecting in terms of sound quality, I’m still just as convinced of that as I ever was.

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