Black Futures @ The Hangar, London

Date: 27 February 2018
Review By Bob Davidson

I’d been both curious and excited to see Black Futures after having seen few Facebook friends ‘like’ them.  I trekked over to the black hole of transport links that is Hackney, grabbed some food and headed to The Hangar.

It’s worth stating that a gig only needs to be a musician or a few turning up and playing their heart out.  Stage shows etc can be gimmicky, sometimes even being a detraction.  But not in this case.  This was an experiential event, not just a gig, and it was fantastic.

I was met by someone in a CS crime scene suit, with face mask and dark glasses, who (somehow) checked my handstamp in the dark and waved me through.  They had created a winding entranceway with black fabric and hidden illuminated logos.  Another staff in the CS outfit gave me an envelope to seal my phone in.  I should also mention that none of these staff in the suits spoke; everything was done via the medium of mime. Next small room and I’m greeted with a blinding flash as someone takes a close-up photo of my face and another checks me down with a Geiger counter (that’s actually a glowstick).  Through more doors/fabric and again blinded with a strobe light aimed at the door and another suited staff member hands me a button badge, at which point I realise I’m in the main room.  I arm myself with an obligatory beer and investigate.

The stage is set up with a 10-foot flashing band logo, white fabrics with glowing colours and the odd strobe going off.  There’s one of the suited people standing on the front of the stage staring straight out who didn’t move until just before the gig started.

For the hour or so I waiting there, all that played was ambient noise and samples with occasional coloured lights strobes going off.  A lot of the ambient sounds used had that awe-inspiring, cathedral-esque, sub-sonic bass that makes you feel a little uneasy. Looking around, the audience of Black Futures seems to be mainly a Venn diagram of hipsters, geeks and students.  It’s not your usual metal/industrial audience, but then this isn’t your usual band.

Cleverly, the band hand included a countdown to being on stage in the ambient audio that was playing and took me a moment to register.  They appeared perfectly on time and headed to the front of the stage.  If you weren’t aware that they were about to start, you would be soon.

Bear in mind that I only know the three singles they have on Spotify, so really can’t tell you much about many of the tracks they played, other than each and every one was awesome.  Nor could I make notes on the night as it was dark and I had no technology to write things down.  Incidentally, the phone in the envelope thing is a stroke of genius, more gigs need to do this.  I really hate the glare with screens held aloft so an out of focus, sound-distorted video can be added to your social media accounts later to be watched by no-one.

The second tune played was their single ‘Love’ that is exceptional, doglegs into places you don’t expect (like most of their music, actually) and they played with even more twists live.  ‘Karma ya dig’ followed shortly afterwards, which is a surprisingly sad song, full of nostalgia of younger times and the friends who we’ve lost since.  ‘Riches’ their most recent offering was played later on, but without the hip-hop refrains on the single. Describing Black Futures is hard, they are genre-defying. There’s a bit of NIN, a bit of Chemical Brothers, maybe a bit of Primal Scream at times, and I get a real Psychic TV vibe from them, not just in the music but also in the imagery and arty immersion side of things.  Live they are much heavier, rockier and industrial-ish (is that a word?) than on the singles, which is neither better nor worse, simply different.  On stage, they play with guitar, unusual drum set-up, synth and a Mac, with multi-tasking abilities that put octopodes to shame.

Space and Vibes (like Ant and Dec, the couples room at Torture Garden or The Kardashians, I have no idea who’s who) work brilliantly together on stage and bounce around with unbridled energy.  There wasn’t an enormous amount of audience interaction, by them at any rate, but what they did was executed with the utmost confidence, firmly holding the audience in their hands.

At the end the CS suited people came to the front of the stage and stayed there after the band left, then ‘Kraftwerk’ style flopped like puppets with cut strings to the end of the music.  It was a fitting ending.

This is definitely going to remain one of the most memorable gigs I’ve been to for a long time.  Although it does sound like the most pretentious hipster thing to say, I’m glad I’ve got into them at the beginning of their career, before they go big, which I expect them to. They deserve it.

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