The Shaking Sensations

support The Day We Left Earth + It Came From A Lab + Emergency Lane
author AP date 22/07/11 venue PH Caféen, Copenhagen, DEN

Inspired by the outstanding composition and solid performance earlier this summer courtesy of The Day We Left Earth, this Friday night was to be spent watching two of Denmark's most exciting prospects in the genre of post-rock (or as fellow scribe TL so aptly put it: instrumental forever-rock), as well as two other local acts representing female fronted, nu-metal inspired hard rock and funky, technical pop punk, respectively. The venue for this exhibit was PH Caféen, with which I had no previous experience, but the frames of which provided a decent setting for an upcoming showcase such as this. The venue is essentially an unused backroom of a hip café in the meat packing district, comparable in size to BETA, and with a minimal, if sufficient stage, light and sound setup. Not many people have actually shown up - and of those who have, most are likely to be friends of the respective bands - but then tiny crowds are the norm at local gigs in Denmark, and the bands seem to not be too fussed about low turnouts anymore.

Emergency Lane

In charge of opening the proceedings tonight is Emergency Lane, a name frequently appearing in conjunction with local gigs in town, but nonetheless one with which I have had no previous experience. The band's sound draws influence from the likes of Flyleaf and Evanescence, adopting a predominantly medium tempo, heavy use of powerchords with instances of simple riffs and standard solo work in between, and soaring female vocals that are clearly the main selling point. Disregarding Malene Bagge Johansen's singing and sense of self-irony, the overall soundscape inspires little awe, especially when delivered with the look and feel of a high school jamming session. Appearing at times timid, and at other times dispassionate, the musicians, comprising guitarists Mark Ian Nelson and Thomas Krogh, bassist Pernille Holt, and drummer Carsten Hansen, look like the backing band for the latest major label radio darling: they completely lack the interest to stand out and rock out, resulting in Emergency Lane coming across as having little or no sync as a collective. Johansen's performance is thankfully proficient enough to divert enough attention from such pitfalls, but if Emergency Lane wish to be considered a serious contender on the hard pressed domestic scene, they need to take a second look at how to become a true band, rather than simply Johansen and her sessions musicians.

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It Came From A Lab

It Came From a Lab are up next, reducing the number of musicians in a rock band to the bare minimum: three. According to the band's Facebook page, there is a fourth member, Christian Østergaard, tasked with keys, additional guitar and backing vocals, but as far as my eyes can tell, he is absent in tonight's constellation. Whether or not that has a significant impact on It Came From a Lab's sound I couldn't say, but one thing is certain: they raise the bar from Emergency Lane. The general approach here is to blend pop punk and ska with progressive and post-rock, with a formula that - for the most part - centers on a technical main riff followed by noisy shredding and ambient interludes. Guitarist and lead vocalist Thinh Duc Tran completes it with surprisingly sparse, though no less impressive, singing which, even without knowing the lyrics, sounds extremely catchy. In fact, in order to form the best possible mental image of what It Came From a Lab sound like, think of RX Bandits and replace their funky jam parts with post-rock.

The delivery of this admittedly unique sound is equally practised, with Tran offering a multitude of facial contortions whilst literally shredding the strings off his guitar. What's more, the band never stops playing, even when such a thing happens; instead, bassist Philip Burnett and drummer Mads Folmer Richter engage in an improvised jam while Tran replaces the string, thus preserving at least some of the momentum built during the first four songs. If there's one thing to complain about It Came From a Lab, however, it's that in the long run their songs do tend to start sounding rather formulaic, and that the post-rock sessions ought to be distributed more equally throughout the set so as to not end up descending into the kind of lull that ensues following the string change. At present it seems like the band has intentionally packed the most punch in the beginning and end of the set, which both feature faster and more energetic picks from their repertoire, leaving a good ten minutes in the middle for the audience to wonder when the skanking or moshing can be resumed.

The Day We Left Earth

With elements of post-rock already aired thus, the time had come for it to be unleashed with full force by Copenhagen based six piece The Day We Left Earth, whose intricate songs have been years in the working, and who for this reason are just getting into a proper touring cycle now. With three guitars, keyboards and samples at their disposal, the band's soundscape is nothing short of immense, and they spare no time to show us this. The show begins with an explosion of noise, layer upon layer of melody building toward an epic crescendo one might usually expect to be the conclusion to a show, before the maelstrom of sound just as suddenly descends into its minimalistic counterpart. This is The Day We Left Earth's secret weapon: sending pulse after pulse of grandeur from the speakers, each escalation preceded by a whispering quietus. With little experience in the genre I might not be the most credible person to claim this, but it is my sincere feeling that with a sound like this, The Day We Left Earth are well equipped to take on the international scene as well; theirs is exactly the type of progressive, epic instrumental rock that UK listeners are beginning to embrace with all their heart, and which our post-rock specialist DR would surely regard with the highest appraisal. My only complaint tonight is that the stage at PH Caféen is far too small for the six musicians to offer the appropriate performance counterpart to their music as they managed to in the slightly larger KB18 in support of City of Ships in June, leaving the music as the band's only firearm against a frustratingly skeptical, and by now thinned down crowd.

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The Shaking Sensations

This lack of space becomes even more apparent as headliners The Shaking Sessions conquer the stage. With one member less upfront, the band is able to make much better use of the stage, wasting no time in brandishing their instruments, contorting their bodies into anguished postures, and even collapsing on the ground during the reprieve of their first song. The soundscape of Shaking Sensations is less detailed at the front, given the more conventional two guitars, one bass setup, but where they may be six strings short of that which The Day We Left Earth can enlist, The Shaking Sensations can boast two drummers, which in my book is an even less conventional and thereby even more intriguing constellation. Needless to say, the rhythm section is as varied as it is thick, with the two percussionists able to deliver slightly differing rhythms in parallel as well as to employ a number of classic rhythm instruments such as a tambourine on top of the conventional drumming. And while The Shaking Sensations have a thinner overall sound, they are still able to create an impressive amount of noise when they need to. In general, The Shaking Sensations draw few distinctions between themselves and The Day We Left Earth, except perhaps their penchant for offering quiet lulls at a higher frequency. But the energetic stage presence makes The Shaking Sensations the more interesting live band, at least tonight.

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