DRAB MAJESTY + NUOVO TESTAMENTO – CHALK, BRIGHTON 8.2.24
Drab Majesty, the American musical project founded by Andrew Clinco in Los Angeles, California in 2011 and expanded by the arrival of Alex Nicolaou five years later, this evening closed the UK leg of their European headline tour here in Brighton at the popular Chalk venue in Pool Valley (courtesy of Omega Live events), with the outfit having already thrilled fans in London, Bristol, Manchester, Glasgow, Leeds and Birkenhead since the beginning of the month. From here they will be performing in the Netherlands, Germany, Serbia, Georgia, Greece and Turkey, and after a couple of months recuperation they will be hopping onto the Slowdive tour of the USA, which will see them play another 17 dates right across the land.
Drab Majesty came into being when vocalist, guitarist, and percussionist Clinco wrote and recorded several songs alone in his bedroom and on playing the tunes back to himself he suddenly felt as though the tracks were somehow recorded by someone else and thus his alter ego of Deb Demure was born. The first batch of releases were sent forth to the world in the form of ‘Unarian Dances’ EP in 2012, the ‘Unknown To The I’ single in 2015 and the debut long-player ‘Careless’ in the same year. In 2016, Drab Majesty expanded into a duo with the addition of keyboardist Alex Nicolaou, who performs as the character Mona D. Since then, the duo have released 7 singles, a compilation release ‘Completely Careless (2012-2015)’ in 2016, two albums, ‘The Demonstration’ (2017) and ‘Modern Mirror’ (2019), and most recently their ‘An Object In Motion’ EP last year.
Drab Majesty – who I believe have only played live in Brighton once before, this being at the Green Door Store on 15th February 2018 – combine androgynous aesthetics and commanding vocals with futuristic and occult lyrics, a style Demure refers to as, “tragic wave”. To create this imposing stage presence, the duo employ costumes, makeup and props to accompany the lush, ’80s-influenced soundscapes and this is very much the case this wet Thursday night.
The duo grace the stage at 8:50pm as the atmospheric instrumental ‘Hath No Form’ from 2017’s ‘The Demonstration’ album plays out. There’s a video screen to the rear of the stage and it has colourful acid house style shapes (no smiley’s though) throughout the 68 minute set. The equipment being utilised is sparse but very effective. Getting in character we have Deb Demure on our left (stage right) who sings lead vocals on a larger majority of the tracks as well as playing left-handed electric guitar, which is traded in on one tune for an acoustic guitar. There is a large selection of foot pedals on offer on the stage floor in which to adjust the required guitar sounds. Stage left (our right) is Mona D who also sings lead vocals on a selection of tracks as well as operating an Alesis keyboard and a Prophet Rev2 polyphonic analog synthesizer.
The duo’s shared ghostlike image is rather striking with both gents sporting sunglasses, silvery white face paint, peroxide blond hair, black suits, white shirts and silk ties. The movements throughout the set aren’t fast and jerky but slow and controlled and almost robotic-like. The crowd are rarely addressed throughout the set and they adopt the Joy Division and early New Order stance of not introducing any of the songs. It’s as though they are playing from another time and dimension.
Things kick off with the New Order-esque meets Xymox sounding ‘Dot In The Sky’ from
2017’s ‘The Demonstration’ album, which also has nods to Tears For Fears, Sisters Of Mercy and others. The thudding beat with the keys and twangy guitar work a dream. Selection three was ‘The Other Side’ which had a quiet guitar intro until Alesis keys came bashing in. After this the duo gave us ‘Oxytocin’ with its banging backbeat and keys akin to Nation Of Language. The long swirling atmospheric synths intro of ‘Ellipsis’ was now upon us. This track then morphed into a sound akin to Sisters Of Mercy ‘Dominion’, and became arguably their most danceable tune thus far. The mesmeric ‘Long Division’ with its chorus of “Long division; Turned you into someone that I had to run from; Long division; Falling down a drain hole; Doesn’t feel, doesn’t feel all that painful” came next. This is a more echoey guitar and drum machine patterned tune with Deb’s vocals sounding even more like Ronny Moerings of Clan Of Xymox fame.
We were around the halfway mark and the Alesis swirling keys were sounding rather Numan-esque, and the chugging electronic drum machine beats were truly evident, and the echoey guitar patterns and rhythms were a joy. Fans of the likes of TR/ST, The KVB and Depeche Mode would definitely approve. The tracks were flying by and the longer they played the more and more I got into their set and there was an increasing amount of whoops of approval from the punters as well. ‘Vanity’, ‘Cold Souls’ and the best of the three ‘Too Soon To Tell’ with its meaty drumbeat from the very off were past us now as the duo offloaded ‘39 By Design’ which was a cracker and just as good as the previous number. The final main set number was ‘The Skin And The Glove’ which arguably had a Happy Mondays and Shamen rave feel. Suffice to say I was away with the fairies!
It was encore time and Deb and Mona were playing hard to get, but did eventually return to play one more tune, this being ‘Not Just A Name’. Before this Mona addressed us by simply saying “Thank you Brighton it’s nice to be back”. Deb was back on electric guitar for this having previously played his acoustic for one number. This slower brooding beat number saw out a tremendously successful performance and sadly by 9:58pm they were done. Cue mass exodus to the merch stand! This had honestly been the best performance that I have witnessed thus far in 2024. I would really love for them to come back again to Brighton and not leave it in excess of five years next time!
So in summary, there simply aren’t enough bands of this ilk playing live here in Brighton at present, they seem to only play London or on the continent, this seriously needs to change!
Check out Drab Majesty’s releases on their Bandcamp page HERE.
Andrew “Deb Demure” Clinco – guitars, vocals
Alex “Mona D” Nicolaou – keyboards, vocals
Drab Majesty setlist:
‘Hath No Form’ (from 2017 ‘The Demonstration’ album)
‘Dot In The Sky’ (from 2017 ‘The Demonstration’ album)
‘The Other Side’ (from 2019 ‘Modern Mirror’ album)
‘Oxytocin’ (from 2019 ‘Modern Mirror’ album)
‘Ellipsis’ (from 2019 ‘Modern Mirror’ album)
‘Long Division’ (from 2019 ‘Modern Mirror’ album)
‘Vanity’ (from 2023 ‘An Object In Motion’ EP)
‘Cold Souls’ (from 2017 ‘The Demonstration’ album)
‘Too Soon To Tell’ (from 2017 ‘The Demonstration’ album)
‘39 By Design’ (from 2017 ‘The Demonstration’ album)
‘The Skin And The Glove’ (from 2023 ‘An Object In Motion’ EP)
‘Not Just A Name’ (from 2017 ‘The Demonstration’ album)
Support this evening came in the form of Los Angeles and Bologna-based trio Nuovo Testamento who are playing their debut Brighton concert this evening. They are purveyors of uniquely dark Italo disco-flavoured pop hits and coldwave cult favourites. Last year they played just shy of 100 gigs and after this current tour the outfit will be heading out again in April and May when they will be supporting The Mission for their USA dates.
Nuovo Testamento is the union of Chelsey Crowley and Giacomo Zatti of the international post punk collaboration Terremoto, and Andrea Mantione a.k.a. Masbucci, of Horror Vacui. Chelsey is also linked with anarcho post punk outfit Crimson Scarlet, whereas Giacomo’s name can be linked with a whole host of previous and existing outfits including HOLY, Hot Gossip (not that one!), Komplott, Mörpheme, Odio, Punch, Sheer Mag, Testa Dura, Tosser, Tørsö, and Verme.
Nuovo Testamento’s ‘Exposure’ EP from Spring 2019 as well as their widely acclaimed ‘New Earth’ album, which dropped back in June 2021, certainly set the tone for the trio’s journey. They backed up their mission last March with the arrival of their enjoyable 8-tune ‘Love Lines’ release, with a half dozen of these getting an outing this evening at Chalk. The remaining couple of tracks were culled from their previous ‘New Earth’ platter.
We take our positions right at the front for a birdseye view of proceedings and can clearly see that Andrea will be operating a Yamaha DX7 synthesizer, a Roland A-49 MIDI Keyboard Controller, as well as another Roland unit from our left (stage right). The mic stand is out centre front and so Chelsey will be operating from there, and finally to our right (stage left) there are no less than 6 red Simmons electronic drums, 4 up at an angle and 2 lying flat. I certainly know how great these are as I have previously witnessed record producer and songwriter Georgia put hers through their paces. Both Georgia and Giacomo adopt the standing positions whilst hitting these. Behind Giacomo there is also a unit of colourful flashing lights and so this will be the presets and backing tapes.
The house lights go down at 7:45pm and Nuovo Testamento take to the stage and immediately brighten up a drab Thursday night in Brighton with their uplifting 41 minute 8 track set. The trio immediately reminds me of being a cross between Celebrate The Nun (who morphed into Scooter) and Bananrama’s disco hits. They kick off with ‘Wildlife’ which gets me (and many around me) bopping away nicely. Selection two is ‘Heartbeat’ and any Pet Shop Boys or even Cyndi Lauper fans may wish to delve further into this tune. Song three is ‘Michelle Michelle’ which opens with a fab Yamaha keys intro before the drums kick in and sees Chelsey deliver her animated vocal delivery. The cowbell sounding ‘Vanity’ is their next choice and is hotly followed by the dance friendly Pet Shop Boys ‘Heart’ sounding album title track ‘Love Lines’. ‘Get Closer’ with its Harold Faltermeyer ‘Axel F’ electro style backing is delivered next.
Their set is going swimmingly well and the punters are very much behind the band which surely must be very encouraging for them. Clearly Chelsey is loving it and quite often throughout the performance she shakes the long microphone lead in a whip style in order to get us lions to dance! ‘Perfect Storm’ is selection seven and this very much reminded me of the truly classic Portion Control epic ‘The Great Divide’, but with female vocals instead of male. The penultimate tune, ‘Heat’, had a really meaty bass backing and this worked well with the Yamaha keys. They signed off with yet another Italo-disco darkwave corker in the form of ‘The Searcher’, which like all the other tracks had seen Giacomo build up a sweat by putting his electronic drums to good use. Suffice to say that at 8:26pm, when they finished, they received truly heartwarming cheers and chaps. Well that went down rather well….fab set! Please come back to Brighton pretty soon!
Check out Nuovo Testamento’s releases on their Bandcamp page HERE.
Chelsey Crowley – vocals
Giacomo Zatti – drums
Andrea Mantione – keys
Nuovo Testamento setlist:
‘Wildlife’ (from 2023 ‘Love Lines’ album)
‘Heartbeat’ (from 2023 ‘Love Lines’ album)
‘Michelle Michelle’ (from 2021 ‘New Earth’ album)
‘Vanity’ (from 2021 ‘New Earth’ album)
‘Love Lines’ (from 2023 ‘Love Lines’ album)
‘Get Closer’ (from 2023 ‘Love Lines’ album)
‘Perfect Storm’ (from 2023 ‘Love Lines’ album)
‘Heat’ (from 2023 ‘Love Lines’ album)
‘The Searcher’ (from 2021 ‘New Earth’ album)