We had been waiting for this gig ever since the debut album of Whispering Sons was released in October 2018. The initial line up for this gig included Ice Baths, the debut album of which we also loved and were looking forward to listen to it live. Ice Baths were not included in the line up after all but this meant that we got to know the music of Ilia Gorovitz instead. Humble and without engaging too much with the people that had already arrived early at The Lexington, Ilia took his place at the Ilia Gorovitz livefront of the stage behind the drums and for the next 30’or so, created an improvised industrial sound which became more dynamic through the live drums that he had incorporated. The set did not have any vocals and Ilia often had to reprogram the pitch of the drums in between songs which became a bit distracting. His debut album entitled ‘The Noble Rot‘ was self released a few days after the gig and it is the first recording of an improvisational set. His EP entitled ‘A Dose of Uncertainty’ also contained recordings of improvisational sets and we had the unique chance to enjoy glimpses from both during this gig. Despite the fact that the sound in this debut album is very ‘dry’, during Ilia’s live set, his sound had much more depth, giving a captivating power to the beats. This is a promising musician and we will definitely have more chances to enjoy his music in the future.

Whispering Sons setting new standards for post punk music

Let’s start by stating a few facts. Whispering Sons, following the path of bands such as dEUS, were the winners of Rock Rally in 2016 and since then, they developed their sound in a way that has given form to their beautiful debut album ‘Image’. Even though when they started, they mainly covered songs from other bands, their artistic creativity very soon surpassed their influences and allowed them to create a unique sound, which does not really fit within the overused and a bit ‘saturated’ term post punk. Whispering Sons live photoPost punk tends to reveal a certain attitude on what concerns the way the lyrics are delivered. There are a few shared qualities when it comes to the rhythms, the guitar and bass riffs within the majority of the bands that identify loosely or closely with this genre. There also seems to be a ‘recipe’ about the general emotional ‘weight’ (or the lack of it) that traverses the performances, a shared feeling of coolness, an avoidance (or even ‘fear’) of exposing raw feelings on stage, a ‘coldness’. Of course, there have been brilliant exceptions of this (mainly in the past) and one of these has found its way to the Whispering Sons live photopresent and is no other than Whispering Sons. Outside the ‘realms’ of punk, rock and metal, we seldom come across passionate performances like the one Fenne (Kuppens) offered. So, when Whispering Sons say that they have not been inspired by the goth scene or that they did not really want to resemble any particular band, this is evident when one sees them perform live, having really ‘shaken off’ all the emotional reservation that we tend to see on stage when most new bands perform.

On what concerns their rhythms, they are also very rich and they follow a similar path to the one Whispering Sons live photoexperimental electronic bands follow. They constantly re-position the rhythmic accent within each song, they use syncopation, they layer drums and keyboards using a kaleidoscopic way, they make really unexpected transitions between melodies that have a certain flow and aesthetic and others that have almost no flow and a more strict feeling, thus creating a sound with a lot of Whispering Sons live photodepth. This is unveiled throughout the album and is evident in every song. Additionally, the band can support all this attitude towards the rhythms and the music on stage, by performing with theatricality and sincerity that carries through the style and the narrative of their videos and the lyrics. I am trying to think how often I have come across such a holistic approach to music. Not often and certainly not from a young band and not outside punk music.

It’s so horrible to see your own confusion and understand it(Through A Glass Darkly, Ingmar Bergman)

Fenne Kuppens, the equivalent of a Bergman’s movie protagonist

A beautiful album which has unique rhythms and a beautiful mezzo voice, does not necessarily mean that its live performance can add to all this in any way. There was not one note or one verse of the lyrics, which Fenne did not accompany with an expression, a gaze or a movement. This provided Whispering Sons live photoemotional and aesthetic context that could not have been inferred from listening to the album alone. Our photographs have tried to capture all the ‘worry’, the ‘despair’, the ‘anger’, the passion and the unapologetic performative honesty that the whole band but especially Fenne and Kobe (Lijnen) revealed throughout the gig. What we saw on stage was a band that owned every single note and riff of this album. We did not see a band whose sound was created by someone else, we did not see a band that had just Whispering Sons live photogrew accustomed to playing this album live from start to finish, we saw a band that was comfortable expressing and representing all the complexity of the rhythms and the lyrics without having to worry about any technicality. ‘Image’ is a sonic story with autobiographical elements, where lived experiences are given a dramatic outlet on stage. This was also evident while Fenne was always looking beyond all of us, there was no communication with the audience, at least not in a conventional way. The whole performance was a very personal journey of creating mental images and reliving the situations that inspired lyrics such as the following:

“And I know I’m racing myself
To the point of no return
They move so slowly when they’re not afraid
And I just keep moving at a different rate
It’s a kind of stilness, I can’t relate…”
(lyrics:‘Alone’)

…and it was evident from Fenne’s expressions of emotional exhaustion that this was an emotional struggle. The sonic textures of Fenne’s ‘magnetic field’ were the result of the electrifying riffs of Kobe’s Whispering Sons liveguitar, the invigorating beats by Sander (Pelsmaekers), the flowing melodies from the keyboards by Sander (Hermans) and the more serene riffs by Tuur’s bass. It was Sander’s Dead Can Dance t-shirt that made a great first impression when the whole band apart from Fenne came on stage and added to everything that the band has already mentioned about their reference points aesthetically and artistically.

The videos of ‘Strange Identities and ‘Alone, rather than the lyrics of the songs, gave us a glimpse into the aesthetic references and existential thoughts of this band. At times all this seemed at odds with their Whispering Sons live photoyoung age, but in the end it all comes down to the choices one makes about how to view the world and themselves in it. We have of course seen many bands produce great engaging videos, the aesthetics and the logic of which, they cannot support while on stage. Most of the times, these videos are not part of the live performances either. We have also seen bands prepare genuinely shocking visuals, the dynamics and the logic of which they also cannot support through their stage appearance.

Whispering Sons live photo

Whispering Sons can and did and we really hope that they will keep this up. We know that they did not set out to make a breakthrough or place themselves in a specific music genre but they are setting new standards in the wider dark alternative music by being themselves, rich in influences and artistic fervour and fearless on stage. Almost everyone was dancing throughout this gig and it was evident that both the music and the performance had won everyone who was present. We listened to ‘Image’ at its entirety and even though it felt at times as if there was no difference in theWhispering Sons live photo quality of sound between the record and its live version, it was the added quality of watching Fenne interpret the lyrics that made all the difference. Congratulations Fenne, Kobe, Lander, Sander (Hermans),Sander (Pelsmaekers), Tuur, we thought that only bands of the past were the keepers of ‘innovation’ in certain music styles and you did not hesitate to ‘break the mould’ and prove us wrong!

You can see more photos from this gig here.

Blaue Rosen box

 

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