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Live Music Review: Nactus Kunan at The Bodega

1 November 18 words: Mike Kane
photos: Mike Kane

Nactus Kunan have been making waves in the local scene, and on Friday night they launched their latest single, Grievous Bodily Calm with their biggest show yet. The gang were joined at The Bodega by fellow Notts bands Megatrain and Shiftwork, treating the audience to a melting pot of a gig by covering a broad range of styles and sounds...

First up are Megatrain, musical brain-child of Tiger and Felix M-B. Both solo artists in their own right, this project gives them chance to shake off the restrictions of any one genre, and explore whatever sonic direction takes their fancy.

Having said this, the duo definitely do have a sound, and it’s a good one; moody programmed beats and ambient loops provide the backdrop for a set full of tight vocal harmonies, guitar work from Felix and synth from a small mountain of gadgets and wires - operated by either Felix or Tiger, depending on the song. The songs are delightfully dark and more than a little weird, with singles Angel (Cindy) and Diana being prime examples. Having already been showcased on BBC 6 Music and on BBC Introducing, and playing the Introducing stage at Hockley Hustle over the weekend too, Megatrain are ones to watch.

Self-described art punks Shiftwork are up next, kicking things up a notch with reverbed-out guitars, vocals and pounding drums, sounding something like a much noisier Beach House, or maybe the middle ground between The Joy Formidable and a band like IDLES. Whatever it is, I’m into it.

Formed in 2017, the three piece consists of Kieran Poole on guitar/vocals, drummer Joseph Maguire and guitarist/bassist Jim Allen - who also handles keyboard drones that flood the space between the rest of the instruments.

The band play a full-on set, with meandering, bendy riffs, wailing solos, and vocals that are half-spoken, half-sung. Second to last is an epic builder of a track that spirals and swells to almost breaking point on Hypertension (Interlude 4) - which reminds me a little of FOALS’ What Went Down. The medley ends with single Domesticated Living, before Poole politely asks if they could play one last song to finish. Top work.

Now, the headliners. By this time, the room has filled out nicely, with the loyal Nactus fans front and centre, visibly and audibly excited to be there.

The Beeston boys start in their signature, laidback style, easing into their set with a couple of songs before slowing it down for the ballad-like Cold.

They find their stride not long after with their biggest hit so far, Proxima B, which is just shy of forty-thousand plays on Spotify. With an unmistakable groove, classic drum machine beats layered with very eighties keyboards provide the perfect backing track for a proper good sing-along chorus.

For me, a lot of the time it’s not the most gripping sound, but Nactus have certainly made a space for themselves as an alt-pop band in a landscape of guitar-y indie bands, making the conscious decision to write music for people to move to. It works as intended; it’s danceable, sing-along-able r‘n’b - and the room are clearly on board, with folks grooving along nicely, young and old alike.

Grievous Bodily Calm is rightfully the biggest moment of the night – with the mood shifting as the lights go from cool blues and pastel pinks to a deep orange. There’s a more mysterious edge to this new song, and the band are clearly having a good time playing it too. Finishing their set and teasing an encore, they reprise the aforementioned new one - Oops Upside Your Head reference and all - much to the delight of the crowd.

Nactus Kunan are onto something and, for the right audience, this is perfect music for a Friday night.

Nactus Kunan were at The Bodega on Friday 26 October

The Bodega website

Nactus Kunan website

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