Event Review: tUnE-yArDs @ Roundhouse (London; Tuesday 20th March 2018)


Merrill Garbus and Nate Brenner’s return to London has been a long time coming. More than 300 people attended their gig at the Roundhouse, initially hosting the support band Boogarins. Soft and mild, Boogarins gave a little Brazilian Latin hint to what some might recall as Tame Impala’s resonating vibe. Easing the crowd’s mood with twisting and bending psychedelic rock, they gradually led to tUnE-yArDs’ entry.

Garbus’ disco-pop and new-found passion increases the loud acoustics in the Roundhouse’s main space, and everyone’s body seems shaking and palpitating as the drum clatter dictates the beat.

Energetic, strong and solid – they perform the new album’s I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life hits, and not only. Garbus’ unruly voice and dynamic presence on stage resonates with the work behind the new album’s themes: to unravel racial and gender-related social oppression in the United States and beyond. In short, the synth-driven expanding musical energy deepens into the experience as “a white person in the realm of social justice”. The lyrics advocate for social awareness about contemporary global issues which are reflected in both lyrical writing and music composition.

With sonic interludes of wind and ocean waves, the artistic interplay lies between repeated disco-house beats enhanced by live drums, bloodstream-like bass lines and a remarkable cross-cultural singing performance. Voicing music as a ‘universal language to express a white person’ (un)comfortably in regard to nowadays Western social contexts, with highly syncopated and unexpected melodic U-turns, Garbus also integrates a timeless engagement with the older ‘house’ sound in contemporary pop-music, honouring last century’s women, and manipulating new and complex rhythms as an act of artistic and social rebellion.

The result we had the pleasure of hearing is an artistic performance of sound and lyrical languages, unpacking truths which are coming digitally warped into our everyday lives. People aware (or not) about the performance’s social meaning are delighted with the glimpses of electronic music, though the song ‘Honesty’ asks for you to feel ‘physical sensations coursing through your body’, and that is music’s universal language across time and space.

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