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Escape Velocity

London Ladies An Experiment On A Bird In The Air Pump Talk Gloom & Winging It
Isobel George , November 20th, 2008 12:48

Isobel George speaks to An Experiment On A Bird In The Air Pump, the latest band to stomp a black boot on the face of nu-Rave East London.

An Experiment On A Bird In An Air Pump

Something is broiling over in east London. And it's not just the salt beef in the bagel shop or the delicate stomachs of wide-eyed undergraduates cramming as much life as they can cram into their hungry little mouths.

There's a black new undercurrent, wave, a genuine community of bands who pitch-clad and backcombed as they may be, hark back to a time when goth was not a dirty word. From the Bansheeism of Kasms to the almost Southern Death Cultish cavernous gloom of SCUM via the Suicidal drone of No Kisses and Ulterior, it is music of a precocious grandeur fit to reclaim gothdom from stripey arm-warmers in Claire's Accessories.

So what's brought on all this murderous brooding? Is it the natural next step after the post-punk revival? Or a repulsed monochrome rejection of the Day-Glo sheen of Shoreditch synth-pop?

"I can understand why people from the outside would try and analyse it and work it out," says D-Bird, one-third of by far the most exciting of the bunch, primal voodoo-grunge trio An Experiment On A Bird In The Air Pump. "But I think that being in it, nothing is contrived, otherwise no one would believe in it. No one would feel the energy we all feel producing and playing the music and watching our contemporaries play. We go and see all our friends play and they come and see us. We all support each other like that and it's great. Something is happening at the moment. I can definitely feel that. As to how and why…"

Indeed, the other two-thirds, Sisters C-Bird and X-Bird initially showed their short films and played in their former incarnation as eerie drum-machine and synth-led creepers Eve Black/Eve White at D's Decasia club night.

"She was really taken with our band and decided to manage us," recalls X-Bird, "and then a year later one drunken night we decided to jam together, the three of us, and stuff started to happened. We thought, 'Wow, this is actually quite good.' Then a band pulled out of the club night last minute and she said, 'Look, why don't we just fill the slot? Take the jam session to the stage.' So we challenged ourselves. We gave ourselves a week to write songs."

"I don't know how we actually did it," remembers D-Bird, wide-eyed. "We thought, 'It's a Sunday, we're first on the bill, no one's going to see us. Let's just do it.' And then we turned up and it was rammed. I was like, 'Oh no!' There were people from other bands… But the reaction was so strong and so positive that night.

"I guess, it just started off as an experiment and we kept at it," nods X-Bird. "If you have so much passion to do something and you enjoy it why stop?"

Their sound retains something of this primal, basic immediacy, thick, low and urgent. A thousand amateur musical Freudians will tell you that if the guitar is the male instrument then bass, drums, earthbound and heavy rhythm is the female principle.

"When I listen to songs for the first time I'm always listening out for the drums and the bass, the rhythm section. That's what hits me. For some people it's the synths and guitars, but for me it's the drums and the bass," confirms D-Bird.

"Yeah. I've always really been into drums," agrees X-Bird. "It's the drums and bass that gets me dancing. I love songs that get me moving. I've always really wanted to be in a band that has really heavy basslines that hits you right in the gut, you know. I guess that's what' we're trying to create. Something really powerful."

And this is heavily, formidable, female (not in the least feminine) music. It's reminiscent of the Banshees, but also has a driving grungy dirtiness that evokes the low down growl of the Birthday Party, early PJ Harvey or The Amps. It is, you might imagine, a choice blend. Their setup live is stark and striking to match: three girls that look like goth Gaugins with one, sometimes two basses, one, sometimes three drums, staring out their audience, pounding, thrumming and howling thickly.

They perform at Decasia and Nowhere To Run alongside spoken word and short films – this is not a community, it's clear, that's just about the look. An Experiment, for one, take their name from an 18th century oil painting in the National Gallery. "C-Bird and X-Bird have film backgrounds," elaborates D. "I never studied art, so all my knowledge of comes through myself. I think we believe as musicians, you're influenced by so many more things than music. We take our name from the painting because art does mean a lot to us and film. People shouldn't be afraid to speak about things like that. When I was growing up and I used to read NME and Melody Maker, when I was reading a Kurt Cobain interview, I wanted to know everything about him. When did he first play the drums? What's his favourite film? All that. I've found that lately I don't really know much about new bands and what other influences they have. It's just very music based. I want to know more than that. I want people to know more about us."

And people will want to know more. Preliminary results from this experiment are moving well. We can't wait to take our findings to the next stage.

The EP ‘These Sins’ is out on December 8. An Experiment On A Bird In The Air Pump play at Club Clang, The Wilmington Arms, London on Wednesday, November 26. Visit An Experiment On A Bird In The Air Pump mySpace