May 30, 2012
Scotch Club, 13 Mason’s Yard, London, Sw1 6BU
I consider myself to be a bit of a music snob, so how I’d not heard of Karin Park amazes even me! I rocked up at the effortlessly cool Scotch Club with Polari‘s designer Bryon Fear to be greeted by a girl in what can only be described as a fetish dress/suit (it was a dress with a shirt and a tie all in one) who delicately tied ribbons around our wrists that were adorned with Karin Park’s name and fragranced with frankincense. This clearly wasn’t going to be a normal album release gig. Then downstairs, as the candles around us were blown out and the basement was filled with smoke, we knew we were in for something special. Lights cut through the fog as the beat kicked in for the opening track, Karin’s disembodied vocal coming at us through the haze … and then … the fire alarm started –
“this was not part of the plan”,
Karin said through the darkness. I wondered what sort of venue allows an artist to fill the venue with smoke only to let an alarm interrupt their performance – and it was obvious Karen and her drummer brother David didn’t know what to do! The alarm was cutting some of the electricity, and only her microphone had power. Not wanting to disappoint,
“I’m a singer and he’s a drummer, right? Let’s just do it” –
and she launched into ‘Restless’, backed solely by David on his drum kit (whose Slayer t-shirt made me smile). I was reminded of Robyn’s 1st headlining UK gig at Metro in 2007, when Robyn performed only with a drummer (and a bassist, if I remember rightly). There’s no denying, Karin has a similar sensibility, her vocal and visual image will be compared to Bjork, but she’s like Robyn and Natalia Kills smashed together to form the perfect female popstar. Karin’s delivery is flawless, note perfect and adorned in a rib-cage skeleton basque with white fringing she not only sounds but looks every inch a popstar. More excitingly, there’s also something unnervingly dark about her music, which, as she performed in this blacked-out beautiful venue, drew me in deeper.
The song ends to a rapturous ovation and now she’s on a roll!
The power is still out and she doesn’t care. Karin asks the audience to hum one solitary note for the whole song, while she sings the brilliant and brooding ‘Wildchild’ over our drone. I’ve never felt so connected to a gig before, and it was the best way to endear me to Karin as a performer. As if intended (although I’m sure it wasn’t) the power returned just as the siblings prepared to perform single ‘Tiger Dreams’, the stage bathed in the glow of blue and red rope lights. ‘Tiger Dreams’ can only be described as GothStep – a genre I never expected to write about. It was like listening to popstep starlet Deliah if Bjork had bashed her over the head, a stuttering wahwah bass and dubstep rhythm is married with a soaring, innocent but dark melody. This is how it must have felt to see Bjork in the mid ’90s – urgent music with one foot in leftfield and the other foot stamping on the mainstream’s face.
I’m a runner,
I’m a hunter.
In the dark.
Always hungry –
Karin’s vocals are full of yearning, not merely a singer more like a force of nature.
Standing on our chairs, so we could see Karin over the throng of people that appeared 5 minutes after the gig was supposed to start, we became aware of the fact we were the only people dancing! And we were DANCING – holding on to the ceiling and moving completely involuntarily. Such is the power of good music – it makes you move, and we had no choice but to dance our hearts out. We couldn’t understand why other members of the audience didn’t have the same compulsion. There is something primal about Karin, and a hint of Karin Dreijer Andersson (Fever Ray, for the uninitiated – look her up, she’s amazing) in Park, so it’s no surprise that the Christoff Berg, Rays collaborator and producer, has worked with Karin Park on her new album, Highwire Poetry.
If the material on display here tonight is anything to go by, Highwire Poetry will be the soundtrack to my life for a while. ‘Tiger Dreams’ has already been stuck on repeat today, and I’ve had ‘Restless’ (performed not only acousticly at the beginning of the set but reprised in full at the end) going through my head since leaving the dark, smokey Scotch Club. Hours later, I’m still buzzing from one of the best gig experiences I’ve had in years. If you like dark, danceable, primal pop and mourn the days when Bjork had pop relevence, you will devour every word from Karin Park’s lips and every beat from David Park’s drum. Search her out at all costs – there’s something very special about her.