Indus Traps

Indus Traps – Night & Day, Manchester, UK (9th June 2017)

The headline act on a night of contrasting styles from three duos was Kite Base, continuing their Latent Whispers tour with a show here followed the next day by one in Macedonia (there must be an easier way of managing your travel), and supported by local duo Factory Acts. But as often happens the pleasant surprise of the night came early on when the audience was thinner, in the form of second support act, the London ‘post-garage/electro dub’ (their description) duo Indus Traps.

Kite Base, one of few joint bass-led bands, works up a head of steam on each song with their innovative and accomplished musicianship as Ayse Hassan and Kendra Frost swop lead roles, to a background of complex programmed drum beats. Frost’s voice is perhaps not quite as rich live as in the studio but that is of little concern to a dedicated, dancing audience. To someone previously unfamiliar with their work and hearing them for the first time the main concern is that there is a degree of repetition both within the songs and between them, as if the key determinant is no more than the programming of the beat. With a little more variety they’d reach the wider audience their manifest skills deserve.

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Factory Acts does possess that variety. Billed as ‘post-punk, dark-electro, alt-dance’ the Salford-based duo of Matt Davies and Cork-originating Susan O’Shea encompass many styles. During their set they embrace New Order to Siouxsie Sioux and even the late, lamented Poly Styrene, throwing in everything from new wave to a ballad of love (City Song) to Susan’s native Cork (where you get the impression she’d rather be) along the way. Again, there’s room for improvement in her voice, and they could be a tad tighter. But if a cornucopia of musical styles with thoughtful lyrics and presented with a big sound is your thing, don’t repeal the Factory Acts.

And so, to the headline act in reverse. Indus Traps– it’s apparently a reference to some early form of life on Earth, before the dinosaurs – are the Massive Attack and Bonobo-inspired Londoners Lou Barnell and Dee Freud, a well-known DJ, producer and re-mixer. Dee Freud bestows his electronic dub skills in the background while Lou Barnell owns the stage with a very physical performance. It’s clear she has dance skills and is immediately reminiscent of an early Kate Bush in the positions she takes up, then later lying flat on her back or clambering on speakers in a St Vincent-esque manner.

She has a strong voice, certainly the best of the evening, with a good range which includes a breathy rendition on ‘Restraint of Beasts’ that comes pretty close to Marilyn Monroe’s ‘Happy Birthday Mister President’. She also takes a few moments out to preface each song with a brief explanation of what it is about, perfect for those that have never previously encountered them. Her presentation is dynamic throughout and the duo offers a variety of songs on various subjects including reflective ones like growing up in 1990s London and how photographs steal a part of your soul and, at the other end of the scale, ‘Ride Me like Lightning’, which leaves little to the imagination and requires no explanation.

If there is one aspect of their show that might merit some improvement it is their lack of instrumentation. Dee Freud works so hard on meagre equipment that he sweats as if he’s just surfaced from an extended shift down’t pit but even so their sound is relatively anaemic compared to that of Kite Base and Factory Acts.  These are hard times for musicians but a little investment wouldn’t go amiss. But to make too much of that would be ungracious. Indus Traps alone gave the two dozen or so who turned up early enough to watch them full value for money for the ticket price they paid for three acts and certainly won over new friends. It shouldn’t be long before they are the bona fide headline act.

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