Sunday, 26 June 2011

Tom Vek @ Ruby Lounge, Monday 13th June 2011

There is, at the same time, everything and nothing to say about Tom Vek. His rise and rise of 2005 yielded great plaudits, but that instant has long since perished. The now and the next should be anticipated very differently. More than six years separates full-lengths We Have Sound and Leisure Seizure and the sparks of the former remain in a realm of music history now wholly separate from the ever-shifting electronic progressions of today.

But such is Tom Vek’s allure that many would cite him as an influence on their music. In this context, support act Breton appear almost to be a tribute band, as if Vek’s last five years or so since touring have been spent training up another vocalist in his image. It’s that same deadpan delivery, but instead the accompanying notes are also drained of melody en route to anticipant eardrums. As a unit, Breton can be pinned to the same board as fellow synth/sampler-friendly hoodies D/R/U/G/S and Fixers.

It doesn’t take long into his Ruby Lounge set to realise that it’s the same slender art scholar with his same monotone vocal, same passion for suave bassline slides; all the same in fact, apart from somewhere along the line he’s given the feathers a trim. Potential Sterling Cooper employee or post-adolescent scruff – it matters not.

Vek fires the first cylinders with an oldie in ‘C-C (You Set The Fire In Me)’, highlighting his penchant for funky bass twangs with a dual 4-stringed attack, before newbies ‘World Of Doubt’ and ‘We Do Nothing’ sink in with contrasting staccato highs and drolly submerged glistens. Further familiar grooves ‘If You Want’, ‘Nothing But Green Lights’ and ‘I Ain’t Saying My Goodbyes’ are unsurprisingly received more favourably than any newcomers yet to make an impact, but leave it another six years and it might be a different story.

The distinction is that Vek’s lyrical lethargy hasn’t had time to settle; the depth to his rhyming satire as yet undiscovered below the po-faced wall of his David Byrne-ish narrative. Every time this outing is in danger of stagnating, bogged down by the similarity of that detached vocal ennui, it is a tune of the prolonged digestion period that reasserts a freshness of groove.

That’s not to say the newer songs wash over completely. The bouncing conga rhythms of ‘Aroused’ match the energetic beats of ‘Hold Your Hand’ and set-closer ‘A-P-O-L-O-G-Y’ is a suitably uptempo sign-off with its echoes of Digitalism. Just don’t underestimate the power of an extended hiatus to pale any slow-burning stragglers by comparison with the return of long-awaited floor-fillers.

Words: Ian Pennington
Images: Paul Green

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