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The KVB at Oslo, London - live review

Darkness shrouds London as the KVB perform at this Hackney hotspot

Crowd at a prog gig
(Image: © Katja Ogrin)

So is there any black in a rainbow? It’s a question that nags as The KVB bring a shroud of darkness around the usually multicoloured idiom of psychedelia. Not for them a swirl of lights and giddy euphoria, but a presentation that’s as austere and glacial as the electronically driven music they present tonight.

The duo of singer/guitarist Nicholas Wood and singer/keyboardist Kat Day have clearly been stung by previous criticisms of their onstage performances that have occasionally gone beyond insouciance and into the realms of the utterly dispassionate. The more forgiving might have put this down to the tenderness of their years, or quite possibly a stagecraft hampered by shyness or stage fright, but the fact remains that their aloofness proved alienating to many audiences.

Not so tonight – Wood is clearly relishing his time on stage. Though his voice barely rises above a whisper at certain junctures – for instance, Always Then – his treated and flanged guitar blends seamlessly with the beats as a variety of throbs and drones emanate from Day’s corner. And on more than one occasion, the once‑static musician stalks across the stage with his instrument while exhorting reactions from his audience.

For her part, Day still plays the role of the ice maiden, but rather than any disdain for those gathered here tonight, this is more down to her concentration, as she presides over an array of keyboards, sequencers and mixers.

The mechanised beats that drive The KVB’s sound are doing their job, and there’s an encouragement to be had in seeing a London audience actually moving in time with the music.

The band are canny enough to realise that the presentation of just two musicians on stage – one of whom is anchored behind a bank of electronic weaponry – provides hardly any visual satisfaction, so it’s to their credit that their icy music is accompanied by a wall of pre-programmed visuals that dominate the rear of the stage. Images of brutalist architecture, iron structures and desolate, industrial landscapes are all present and correct, and the shots of the slowly breaking ice floes that complement the chill of In Deep are a particularly nice touch.

Not all of it works, unfortunately. For instance, their reworking of the Rolling Stones’ Sympathy For The Devil is a serious misfire. The funk of the original song is replaced with a martial delivery, and its menace is totally lost thanks to what appears to be an unfamiliarity with the characters that lie at the heart of the song, as well as a rather cut’n’paste approach to the lyrics.

The hooks of Never Enough redeem the band though, and prove that there’s black running through this rainbow like the colours through a stick of rock.

Julian Marszalek is the former Reviews Editor of The Blues Magazine. He has written about music for Music365, Yahoo! Music, The Quietus, The Guardian, NME and Shindig! among many others. As the Deputy Online News Editor at Xfm he revealed exclusively that Nick Cave’s second novel was on the way. During his two-decade career, he’s interviewed the likes of Keith Richards, Jimmy Page and Ozzy Osbourne, and has been ranted at by John Lydon. He’s also in the select group of music journalists to have actually got on with Lou Reed. Marszalek taught music journalism at Middlesex University and co-ran the genre-fluid Stow Festival in Walthamstow for six years.