STUFF. – Live – Patterns, 20/2/2016

I went to review a band that I’d never heard of but was similarly wholly intrigued by on Saturday night. The band were called STUFF. (with a full stop, don’t worry, this isn’t bad grammar in play) and were from Belgium. The show was curated and promoted by BN1 Magazine, and they did a really good job – the venue was three quarters full, many familiar faces around the place. The night had a particular urban twinge to it, like a kind of blending of the technical urban sound that was rooted in live performance – I guess it’s a result of our times. RnB meets soul meets acoustic but with a high production value, tech savvy, live performance vibe. Patterns is an ace setting too – the lights are great, the installed sound system is awesome and apparently the sound on stage was a winner. Good organisation / setting / presentation all round makes for happy musicians and happy crowds.

The line up was a mixed one, with Brighton’s SEATS opening the show, a markedly above average, noisy indie band in the mould of Everything Everything with a little bit more Seattle than usual in the mix. A song that proclaims: “It doesn’t matter” and some thoughtful arrangements played to the vibe of the front row and dance floor. They also paid homage to The Volks nightclub which was fun! ‘Gum’ was probably my highlight.

Nicholas and The Saints came up next, the slightly more ramshackle group that played more to the electronic nature of the headliners. Electric double bass was an excellent unusual touch, they worked to win the crowd with an extremely accessible almost blues based sound. Guitar tones were lovely, male and female vocals shared the front lines which also blended really nicely, better than usual – not just backing vocals, however more of that would have gone down well though to be honest.

I’ve visited a few places in Belgium on tour, and I know they produce some awesome bands, and are really explorative / expressive with their music and arts. It came as no surprise to me that the quality of STUFF.’s performance was really high. The band themselves were really top drawer players and they’d obviously spared no time in rehearsing what they do so it became quite unique art.

STUFF. took full advantage of the resources available to them, travelling with their own sound guy, and the lighting was suddenly alive and exuberant. This added a huge element to the show – when the band flew into drops, the lights were gliding with them, and the dance floor felt the mood double-time with washes of colour and openness.

The drum kit STUFF. play with is a pretty hybrid affair – instead of your usual tom drums, they had a set of bongos – now, I usually hate bongos, but actually in this sort of electronic setup, it worked like magic. The bongos gave a really high sort of pitched tom, that complimented the rest of the setup really well. Add to this a slushy, trashy hi-hat, and you have a nice alternative, more garage sound to the tight all round sound. Samples on top of that and 2 snares made for a pretty unusual, alternative rhythm setup.

STUFF. proclaimed that “this music was made for dancing”, and people sure danced. It wasn’t manic, I guess due to the fact that actually, it still took up quite a lot of your concentration as an audience member. This was the thing with the band, they weren’t just dance floor fodder, unapologetically nailing your feet to the floor, it was more of a kinder approach, and something stimulating. They really made you think a little, but not too much, sort of celebrating the fact you had some good intelligence to share with your present company. I felt good. Cheers brain!

The essential summary of a STUFF. show is really nicely, considerately arranged breaks, firmly anchored in the Ninja Tune-esque breakbeat realm, but with a more experimental aspect. Beautiful, sparse, almost disorientating ambient sections are utilised, interspersed with really uplifting bursts of energy, reliably and dependably thoughtout. Basically you don’t mind trusting them to make cool music, so it erodes your cynical nature. Go see them, it’s enlightening.

Words by Andrew Halliday

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