Undeterred by the snowy weather, last Saturday I headed to Canal Mills to catch the much anticipated hometown gig of Leeds heroes Submotion Orchestra, hosted by Super Friendz, as part of their UK tour promoting their fantastic new album ‘Kites’.
Opening the show was Leeds based electronica trio Laminate Pet Animal. Despite the disruptions to the transport links in the area I managed to throw myself through the doors just in time for the start of their set, and I’m extremely glad I made it in time! Their music is a captivating mixture of electronica and a softer dream-pop sound, with the vocals of all three members entwined over uplifting and emotive soundscapes. The music really spoke for itself in this case and they proceeded through the set with great proficiency and elegance.
Having formed fairly recently in 2014, the band has already developed a wonderful stage presence and each song is woven with endless textural qualities that make their output defined and memorable. The intricate drum patterns and soaring vocals tie together the rich ambient sounds to create something incredibly dramatic and I was delighted to hear them play ‘Solace’ – a personal favourite of mine, which is available on Spotify alongside the rest of their material.
As they left the stage to a thunderous applause the venue was already healthily full despite the early stage time and testing weather conditions, testament to the quality of their music and live performance. The future looks bright for Laminate Pet Animal and I’m looking forward to what they do next.
Next up was Vels Trio, all the way from Brighton! Vels Trio are an intriguing mixture of jazz, rock, funk and electronica, seamlessly wavering between melodic Rush-esque progressive rock passages and harsher electronic sounds. I had recently familiarised myself with their 2017 EP ‘Yellow Ochre’ and it was great to see them play some of those songs in the flesh. The distinct talent of this band was truly something to behold in a live setting. The technical ability of the entire band cannot easily be conveyed without seeing them live for yourself and I would strongly encourage anyone to do so when they are playing nearby if you have an ear for funky and sophisticated music. The infectiously groovy bass was the ideal accompaniment to the controlled chaos of the keys, giving the drums an impressive blanket of sound to play under.
Without doubt the heaviest sounding band of the line-up, they provided a pleasing contrast to Laminate Pet Animal which ultimately made them stand out – I found myself completely immersed in their set which seemed to end much too quickly. The songs went down a storm and with the crowd now suitably warmed up, it was time for the awesome Equals to take to the stage.
Hailing from Hackney, London, Equals brought a different flavour entirely to the gig, offering up an amalgamation of soul and R&B – with the electronic elements serving more as an influence rather than the main feature in their sound. Despite there being only 2 official members according to their Facebook page, on this occasion they performed with 2 guest vocalists as a replacement to the usual frontman Ade. This was due to him being on tour with the infamous Gorillaz. However, this did not detract at all from the set as they were absolutely stunning in their execution of the songs, including the most recent single ‘Letter to Leave’ which instantly had the crowd dancing in unison.
The dynamic song structures and wonderful vocal harmonies will undoubtedly lead them to a path of great success, forging a unique and seductive sound with enough commercial flair to take them to the next level. It was clear that although Equals are a relatively new project, they are already gaining a steady fan base owing to their solid live show. They will be releasing their debut LP ‘1997’ later this year, so keep an eye out!
The Main Act
After a string of suitably great support acts, it was finally time for Submotion Orchestra. Having been a fan of the band for several years yet somehow still to see them live, I was extremely eager to hear what they would sound like in a live setting and it was obvious that the crowd shared my enthusiasm.
Submotion Orchestra are well known for defying genre conventions through their ever-evolving music which draws from all corners of dub, jazz, electronica and soul. It is great to hear them open the set with several new songs from their new album ‘Kites’, showcasing the culmination of many years of touring and musical exploration. Choice cuts from the new record ‘Prism’ and ‘Variation’ sound fresh and exciting whilst still acknowledging the classic Submotion Orchestra sound. The new material emanating from the stage sounds both crystal clear and gargantuan in its delivery.
The great thing about this band is that they can effortlessly switch between the abstract and ethereal to full-on foot stomping intensity with an admirable organic flow. The band seem perfectly adapted to a live environment at this stage in their career and as they ease back into older classics ‘In Gold’ and ‘Thinking’, the crowd explode in a flurry of movement – with vocalist Ruby having each and every attendee in the palm of her hand.
Leaving the venue in high spirits, the picturesque snowfall overcoming the City seemed a fitting tribute to the tremendous music witnessed throughout the evening.
You can catch Submotion Orchestra on the 24th and 25th March in London and Bedford this month, as well as the 19th, 21st and 22nd April in Birmingham, Glasgow and York respectively. Do not miss out on the chance to see a seasoned band at their absolute peak!
More information on shows hosted by Super Friendz can be found at superfriendz.com
Gary writes for Leeds Living on contemporary music, being an avid goer of gigs and a supporter of local talent.