1st November | Louisiana
Photos: Jessica Bartolini
Nicholas Wood and Kat Day, The KVB, look refreshingly youthful and unwearied for two people who have been playing and recording together for over eight years now. The first contrast you saw when you stepped into the upstairs room at The Louisiana was how incredibly young-looking their audience weren’t. That’s not to say they looked rubbish; as autumn has a beauty of its own, so does ageing.
Their most recent album, Only Now Forever, was a recent 6Music Album of the Day. Those amply filling the auditorium were definitely from the more vintage end of 6Music’s listener demographic. The dress code definitely suggested that black was the new black.
Support came from electronic producer, Sunken. A technological one-man band, he mixed uptempo dance beats with samples and some vocals. Those vocals were channelled through various reverb-y effects via a vocoder, looking like the kind of receiver you see helicopter pilots use in war films.
With so much going on, it bestowed upon the words that unintelligible quality you get from a PA system at a village fete, where someone is trying to tell you that a child is stuck in the Tunnel of Goats, but you can’t make it out over the ambient noise. Add in his substantial fringe and the need to look downwards almost all of the time, there was a detached quality about it as a performance that brought an extra layer of relevance to his stage name.
The KVB infuse genres that inherently trade off abstraction, introspection and existential doubt, such as the more Gothic end of electronica and the more flowered-up, psychedelic end of shoegaze. So we can never expect that they are ever going to be stalking the stage like Charlie Steen of Shame, high-kicking like Michael D’Addario of The Lemon Twigs, or hitting the audience with socially-observant aphorisms like Rakel Mjöll of Dream Wife or Joe Talbot of IDLES. That said, despite the close proximity that the Louisiana offers between performer and listener, they did feel a little far away.
A band that doesn’t perform right at the front of the stage is a curious thing. Having a sound that is like a cross-breed of The Jesus and Mary Chain and Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark doesn’t make you a ‘foot on the monitor’-style ensemble, but with Kat necessarily stationed behind her keyboard, any significant movement has to come from Nicholas. You wouldn’t need a GPS tracker to work out that he covered ground within a four-foot radius in the middle of the stage. They felt like a little like a trio whose front man hadn’t shown up.
Stepping off the grumpy bus, the music they produce makes for entertaining listening. ‘Above Us’ and ‘On My Skin’ from the recent album stood out in particular. You could find yourself pleasantly ‘lost in a forest’, as Robert Smith sang in the incidental music before THE KVB played, and as the projected images behind the duo also helped to suggest.
That said, one thing I want from a gig is presence, rather than absence. If I want to zone out to music, I can do that in my own time at home. The best gigs warm your heart or rattle your bones. To make the transition from throbbing ominously and successfully from our radios into filling bigger venues, The KVB could do more to fill each venue with their own presence.
See the video for ‘Above Us’ here: