slow motion existential catastrophe (set to music)
Mission control: Callum Easter on the launchpad of his new EP Get Don’t Want (Image: @nonideefixe)
The Ambassador and I feel like we’ve just been awakened from cryogenic stasis again: it’s extremely cold and we’re surprised. Rather than on a gurney in a hyper-dimensional laboratory lined with reflective hologrammatic Mylar, this time we are at the launch of Callum Easter’s debut solo mini-album Get Don’t Want at the Biscuit Factory. It’s definitely cold: freezing clumps of hat and scarf-wearing gig-goers huddle together round cans of viscous, almost gelid Red Stripe. There’s spacey, iridescent décor too: Easter’s staging features an Apollo landings-style lighting rig made from tubular aluminium and hundreds of CDs.
But we’re not that surprised. We were, pleasantly so, when The Ambassador and I first caught Callum Easter’s new set a week or two previously. Easter had been supporting the quite silly Rituals at the Voodoo Rooms. Members had been in now defunct Nuggets-type punk band The Merrylees, which is worth mentioning because the venue was buzzing with expectant retro-scenesters – all bowl cuts and Beatle boots. What they made of Easter was hard to tell. His immaculately poker-faced performance was mesmerising; a single strobe pulsed slowly on unblinking black shades and black suit, while he summoned the ghost of Roy Orbison – the spectral Orbison of David Lynch’s Blue Velvet, his anguished, primal howl and occasional melodic forays on guitar, harmonica and electric organ anchored by an unmade sound bed of crunching beats and seasick electronic squelch.
Tonight there’s no Gilbert & Sullivan-squabbling-with-late-period-Alex Harvey-in-a-pink-fake-fur-lined-music-hall to distract, an excess that perversely had the unintentional effect of magnifying Easter’s offhand brilliance. Tonight is his show and second time around it is even more compelling. His set is a postmodern pile-up of different styles including, but not limited to: left field electronica, blues, torch song balladry, glam and rock and roll, all fronted by Easter’s own brand of brooding indifference and poetic force. Where more self-conscious cross pollinations of style and attitude can be pretentious or just plain dull – Sigue Sigue Sputnik, Jazz Funk or in fact any kind of heavy-handedly literal fusion – Easter is a truly original synthesis with his own weirdly musical, musical logic.
If we were forced to name names, The Ambassador and I would probably venture Suicide, the impassioned, tortured young Scott Walker of The Seventh Seal and the tortured, impassioned old Scott Walker of Epizootics simultaneously, Silver Apples and The Residents avant garde maulings of r’n’b classics as among his influences but it just doesn’t seem that important tonight. It’s telling that G from The Young Fathers, who has the Herculean task of warming up the flash frozen crowd, is spinning Can and Bo Didley numbers amongst the hip-hop, grime and glitch but as a deadpan Easter might say: “What’s it to ya?” Therein lies another clue; since the demise of his former band, the hotly tipped Stagger Rats, Easter has sequestered himself in producer Tim London’s Soulpunk studios in Leith, rubbing shoulders with the aforementioned Young Fathers and the ascendant Lawholt. Asides from the buzz generated around his current stable of associated acts, London has form in electronic music. From early days as part of the post-punk synth boom through chart-topping success with Soho’s rave anthem Hippy Chick to his recent Mercury Prize-bothering activities, he is clearly pushing the right buttons.
Better to look forward when trying to evoke Callum Easter’s music. Easter could be the space-blues-crooner at the end of the world cabaret: a line-up which might also feature a rare emotion felt by a post-human cybernetic entity, a sacred drone arranged by Twelfth Century Sufi mystics with strange wind instruments, unicycles and finger-cymbals plus other acts only comprehensible in multiple extra-dimensions. Easter’s moody stage presence, his intense, heartfelt vocal delivery that occasionally accelerates into an echoing, ultrasonic infinity, his underwater tempos, his whole future shock, fake moon-landing aesthetic, is underpinned by a dues-paid knack for songcraft and an intimate lyricism. The result is disjarring, exhilarating and entirely seductive. This is no sterile exercise in avant garde experimentation, there is real emotive power here. Want It Sometime is epic, sweeping. Lost In A Memory is like urgent news from another star emerging from the static hiss of background radiation. When he sings “Bless my soul” on the touching Little Burden, you really believe he has one rather than another musician using cliché as lazy shorthand. Towards the end of the show as the morbid chimes of the poignant Chemo Bells fade, Easter leans forward and rests on his mike stand. Finally, he smiles. Jon Fogarty, Easter’s master stonemason DJ, looks pleased too. It’s going well. Set closer and stand-out track from the new mini-album, Feelings Gone is triumphant. The monstrous glam hook and sense of otherworldly dislocation is a full force, wild style, boogie down production. The future may well be Callum Easter’s.
Get Don’t Want is out on 16th December through Soulpunk
Callum Easter http://www.callumeaster.com/