26th October @ The Mash House, Edinburgh
A stylish post-punk four-piece writing songs about introspection is not a new concept, particularly in the Glasgow music scene, but The Ninth Wave have managed to rise above the usual crop. The release of debut EP Reformation in October seems to have given the band a greater sense of purpose and focus, leading to a branching out from their hometown circuit to playing gigs further afield in Scotland and London. Their Scottish EP tour brings them through to the Mash House, in whose wood-panelled basement their synthy goth-glam finds a willing audience and an unlikely home.
First on the bill is Dundee’s ST.MARTiiNS, a group specialising in dreamy melodies and delicate harmonies. There are echoes of Two Door Cinema Club’s sparkling indie-pop, but with Katie Lynch’s flickering but powerful vocals the overall effect is more London Grammar without the widescreen orchestration. The lo-fi sound of songs such as ‘9teen’ relies heavily on this voice for grounding and direction, the sparse guitar reflecting off it while the beat skitters around it. However, at times it can seem a bit overpowering, as if Lynch is forcing vocal effects that are more complicated than necessary to compensate for a lack of instrumentation. Often it is the shifting rhythms and intensities of the songs that give them their charm, ebbing and flowing around the room in unobtrusive airiness.
Where many young bands shuffle onstage with eyes glued firmly to their toes, The Ninth Wave take it in a dramatic fashion, strolling confidently on after a suspense-building instrumental.
As they launch into the searing ‘Reformation’, it’s clear that they have the aesthetic side of things pretty well covered. Vocalists Elina Lin and Haydn Park-Patterson look and act every bit the charismatic glam-punk frontpeople, with lashings of dark makeup, blouses, a black cravat and structured, sharp hairstyles; Park-Patterson’s inky side-parted curtains give him an air of early 90s Brett Anderson, if he had been more experimental with his eye-shadow. The shared vocal duties between the two is refreshing, with Nin’s clear tones soaring over Park-Patterson’s baritone, reflecting the interplay between the light-handed synths and grungier guitars.
Many of the songs from the new EP have not quite enough bite on record, but very much come into their own live, imbued with a greater purpose. The cathartic choruses of ‘Reformation’ and ‘Pale White’ have a brooding vitality that only really becomes apparent when the male and female vocals are fighting for dominance over the crunchy guitars and ringing synths in a live setting.
Lyrically, the songs all seem to look at issues of conformativity, self-destruction and general existential angst from varying perspectives – ‘Pale White’ reminds us that “time is not ours to keep” before unconvincingly reassuring that “it’s fine”, while on ‘Liars’ Nin acknowledges that “it’s hard to be different when we are all the same”. Many of the electronic melodies are a bit too similar however, and Nin’s vocals are at times drowned out and dominated by Park-Patterson’s, which is a shame as they are often what prevents the sound from lapsing into a typical indie-rock groove.
Overall, The Ninth Wave delivers an incisive and robust performance which is a clear development from when they played La Belle Angèle for the Wide Days conference only six months ago. They were the stand-out group even then, so given some more opportunities to hone their craft in the studio and onstage, they should be a force to be reckoned with in 2018. Catch them if you can at Glasgow’s O2 ABC on 22nd December, or at King Tut’s New Year’s Revolution, where they will be headlining alongside Acrylic, Das Plastixx and Le Thug.
Image: @THENINTHWAVE_ Twitter