Brooding and moody
The Voyeurist - Live At The Castle, Manchester

Hot of the heels of their self-titled free download mini-album, The Voyeurist graced The Castle Hotel, Manchester, with their heavy-browed presence this week. On at eight thirty, earlier than scheduled, due to having to catch a train home, it was still light when the London duo began their set. Despite playing the early slot, once on stage in the impressively high-ceilinged back room, the summer scenes outside soon dispersed.

The floor was riddled with fantastical musical gadgetry, which, via the deft programming of singer/lyricist Sarah Nag and guitarist Richard Ruston, provided the delicious misery-disco backdrop to the whole affair. Mirroring this the pair, in thorough grunge get-up, were awash with a gloomy blue light that disconnected the scene from anything existing outside of the venue. All this was seemingly suitable for the delivery of what is the sonic lovechild of Joy Division’s ‘Isolation’ and a Hacienda mash-up.

Singer Sarah Nag makes for an intensely foreboding front woman. She is brooding and moody with long, thick dark hair that she alternately hides behind, then stares acutely at the audience through; her stare making you feel both honored and laid bare. At all times her presence on stage was supported by her clear and impressively straight vocal style.

Considering the Nirvana-esque styling, Nag’s phrasing is more reminiscent of early ‘90s dance tracks. In many ways it is this seemingly incongruous blend, of once polar opposite styles, that defines the shape of the band. Nag has an addictive monotony of tone that, layered over a rich honey timbre, gives form and structure to their whole sound. Her total lack of vocal over-indulgence is refreshing and, poignantly, leaves you feeling open and raw.

Such rawness was very apparent when they performed tracks like ‘The Messiah’. Here the strength of Richard Rushton’s guitar really took things up a notch. Striking an impressively shy figure, he stooped and swayed over his guitar and barely ever looked up. His high echoing and fantastically whining tones brought flavours of The Cure and New Order and with it visions of dingy warehouses and grimy back streets.

Having spent the past year defining themselves sonically and with regard to line-up, tracks like the dance floor filler ‘Extended Cut’ really demonstrated just how mature they are with their identity. At this point their introversion gave the feeling you were intruding on a delectably depressive teenage duo who, having necked a liter of Strongbow, were uninhibitedly glooming out in their bedroom.

It was this frankness of revelation that made the set such a success. Alongside this Rushton’s bleak swagger and Nag’s occasional intense vocal screeches, accompanied by head-grippingly downbeat stage floor poses, made the whole thing really quite sexy. The Voyeurist delivered the somberness of being grounded with the serious intent of a first French kiss; all laced with the euphoria of an illicit warehouse party. They were glittery stars, set in a very dark sky.

Words and photo by Anne Louise Kershaw

Click here for a photo gallery of the gig.

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