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LIVE REPORT: Madonnatron & Nervous Conditions
The Quietus , November 9th, 2017 15:09

Last night, Madonnatron and Nervous Conditions bring mountains of chaos, confidence and comradeship to The Garage.

Madonnatron photo by Lou Smith

When Madonnatron hit the stage at The Garage it’s early and the venue is sparsely populated. A few loners cling to the walls, heads buried in phones. There’s a definite school disco vibe. “Hello, we’re Madonnatron. Everything’s so silent…” whispers singer/guitarist Stefania Cardenas, and she’s right. You could hear a pin drop. There’s a sharp burst of white noise and they break into ‘Bad Woman’. It’s a slow-burner and a slightly shaky start but a crowd builds, packed tight in front of the stage. Then, two minutes in, they unleash their secret weapon: drummer Beth Soan. Beth hits ’em like she hates ’em and suddenly everything comes into focus. The wildly inventive vocal arrangements, the punchy basslines, the scratchy guitar parts and the ice-cold stares all make perfect sense.

The south London four-piece specialise in a unique brew of witchy, disco-punk, and one of the things that's great about them is their cohesiveness, their unity. There’s no clearly identifiable front person - vocal duties are shared, harmonies bounced off one another and no one’s vying for the spotlight. They released their self-titled debut LP earlier this year on Trashmouth Records, they they play with the confidence and unity of a band with no doubts about their own abilities. Much like their south London contemporaries (Meatraffle, Warmduscher, No Friendz), they are a group brimming with authentic energy.

Also on the bill are the no wave-inspired noise ensemble Nervous Conditions. If my maths adds up right, they appear tonight as an eight-piece. Two drummers, bass, guitar, violin, sax, vocals and synth. Their singer, looking not unlike a young Mark E Smith, hollers through lyrically dense numbers, backed by a band approximating something like early Swans but with a sense of humour. Sax wails, violin screeches, synth squelches and rhythmically they march in lockstep. In a band so big, it’s easy for individual contributions to get lost in the fray but with Nervous Conditions, everyone’s bringing something worthwhile to the table.

Bands like these are testament to the wealth of highly original guitar groups coming out of south London venues like Brixton’s Windmill and The Five Bells in New Cross. These are groups producing innovative, high-energy, often humorous music with a confidence that is evident in its performance. They know they sound good. They know they look good. They have nothing to prove and it shows.

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