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Live From Birmingham: Alabama 3, Craobh Rua, Fanfare Ciocărlia & Wrangler

Martin Longley By

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In the end, the Romanians took a rather flat beginning, herding their lost audience towards the front rows, goading them into standing, then even coaxing a few females up onstage for a brass-worshipping dance. The second set took off into another dimension, populated by some of the best songs, and featuring the most riveting solos. There was one tune that employed a dual lead vocal technique, but many more that swapped the vocal roles around, from frontman to sideline helpers. Then, for the encore, the band paraded around the hall, and out into the foyer, with not one tune but three or four, offering up a substantial long goodbye, including that evocative theme from Emir Kusturica's Time Of The Gypsies movie, the traditional "Ederlezi." This wasn't exactly their natural habitat, but the Romanians managed to invade, colonise and convert into a designated party zone.

Wrangler
The Tin
March 21, 2015

This Coventry gig was the Saturday night climax of a two-day Synthcurious mini-festival which featured an afternoon of films, discussion and electronics activism. Wrangler have a low profile considering the pedigree of the trio's players. Not least Stephen Mallinder, a founder of Sheffield's Cabaret Voltaire, one of the most significant UK alternative industrial-funk electronic music outfits. He's partnered by Phil Winter, from Tuung, those pioneers of folktronica, and Benge, who's played with original Ultravox singer John Foxx. The opening set came courtesy of Attrition, a local Coventry act that's been active almost as long as the Cabs. Nowadays, Attrition is mostly Martin Bowes, no longer working with co-founder Julia Niblock. The set was much better than expected, as Attrition's sound is now stripped to a darkened core, shorn of its old Gothic trappings. Bowes has scalpeled the palette down to a harder, minimalist anti-glam doom-pop, loaded with attractive amounts of alienation.

By comparison, Wrangler shrouded themselves in a mystery aura, performing in near-darkness. Even though this trio are sonically equal, Mallinder couldn't help being the focus, not least due to his vocal role, but also by standing in the centre, projecting a covert leader-vibe. Considering their fully pulsing and blipping sound array, Wrangler didn't have much equipment on view, everything kept to small boxes of electronics, seeming very hands-on. Benge hit two small sample-triggering drumheads, very starkly set up on a pair of thin stalks. The songs built up a similar scope of activity, commercial in intent, but subliminally glistening with a moody hue. Both audience and band became immersed and ensnared during this communion, with flickering images providing part of the atmosphere, hypnosis insinuating to every corner of the room, an encore blast from the past provided by "Sensoria," a slithery old funk classic from Cabaret Voltaire themselves.

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