LIVE REVIEW: Bas Jan, Danica Dares @ Cobalt Studios (25.02.22) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: Bas Jan by Sophie Baker

Before the evening started, I had a drink with my friend in Ouseburn. And something they expressed to me was how stagnant they felt a lot of genres had become – no development in their sound whatsoever. This opinion stayed on mind for some time.

While there were examples given that I think I could agree with, a lot of them I couldn’t. And a perfect example as to why I don’t think this is particularly true came an hour or so later in the form of both Bas Jan and Danica Dares.

Both of these acts are pushing boundaries within the art pop genre, blending in elements of avant-garde, experimental, and post-punk.

Initiating the night, Danica Dares took to the stage, flooded with royal colour-based lightning, and erupted with their first track Giving It Away. The track features an incredibly catchy hook, leaning towards the more pop aspects to their music. It showed their kaleidoscope of a sound magnificently, as the band’s set up of bass, guitar, synth and sampler all elevated the performance by Harriet McBain – which took centre stage. Speaking of stage, it prominently featured striking background videos. It’s something I’ve not seen many bands do, but the muted psychedelic colours emitted by it helped build the band’s sonic environment. The way the trio executed their set you wouldn’t think this was their first proper gig. They’ve expanded upon the ideas from their NARC. TV performance in such a way that by the end of it I couldn’t help but be stunned. The peak for me had to be Siren, it was as if all the pieces the group had laid out clicked perfectly, coming together in such a grandiose way. However, the energy and excitement for the night didn’t quell there.

Now, this is a first for me as I’ve always avoided artist comparisons, but Bas Jan is what I imagine a darker 2010s Julia Holter would sound like. But at the same time, that’s not even a fair comparison because Bas Jan flaunted techniques I’d never expected – seen best with the introduction of the recorder into their ensemble of instruments. You know when the last time I heard a recorder be used musically was? Thursday mornings in Year 6!

And the addition of a recorder sounded fantastic. The sound engineering in particular on that night was excellent. The drums sounded snappy, giving each song an almost dance-like groove. It flowed elegantly with the performance from Serafina Steer, that constantly crossed the line between spoken word and singing. Those moments of singing on the choruses also featured the rest of the band harmonising with Steer and gave the vocals a depth to them that made them sound stunning.

Despite being bombarded by guitars, drums, bass, sampler, synth, and even the recorder, the use of the violin was what truly stood out the most. Several songs had two separate members on the instrument, sounding ominous and threatening yet also graceful and distinguished. Tracks using this set-up bounced between poppy to abstract in a moment’s notice, leaving me in awe of the talent being demonstrated.

Something that unfortunately let this night down was some members of the crowd. It’s something I’ve noticed becoming more and more frequent at gigs, and that’s excessive talking. People trying to have conversation, raising their voices to overpower the band – even being told off by other audience members. The lack of respect was sad; as soon as the music starts, save your conversations for when it finishes, or you might miss something as spectacular as this night’s show.

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