Review: Drab Majesty @ Brisbane Powerhouse

Drab Majesty played Brisbane Powerhouse on 14 March, 2024.
Our eclectic team of writers from around Australia – and a couple beyond – with decades of combined experience and interest in all fields.

As part of the Festival of Other Music known as ΩHM, Brisbane Powerhouse played host to LA-based darkwave, dream-pop band Drab Majesty, but not in the way you might think.

Those who attended the Powerhouse last night (14 March) expecting to see Drab Majesty perform songs from their back catalogue would have been surprised to learn that instead, the duo would be performing a live score to the 1980 film 'The Arrival'.

A piece of religious propaganda for a UFO cult named Unarius, 'The Arrival' serves as a neon-soaked, mind-melting journey that follows a caveman named Zan as he's shown his past and future if he allows himself to become one with Unarius.

The show was advertised as a triple bill, with Sydney-based producer CORIN first to take the stage. Playing tracks from her second album 'Lux Aeterna', the crowd was treated to an intense audio performance involving looping visuals and choral vocals.

Using a technique known as micropolyphony, CORIN would take sustained sounds, often her vocals or dissonant chords, and stretch them to their limit. It made it difficult to focus on any individual sounds, turning the entire performance into a stretched, ambient soundscape. Coupling these sounds with 3D visuals of mythical beings and rendered water made for an almost overwhelming experience.

After CORIN, French duo Franck Vigroux and Antoine Schmitt made their way onstage in complete darkness. Performing their audiovisual light show ‘Atotal’, the pair made use of dancing projections of pixels and cubes, described as 'audio and visual atoms' by Schmitt.

Vigroux's audio accompaniment served as a blend of techno and industrial, making use of pounding bass and distinct high notes to move these atoms around the screen behind them. Their performance had measured chaos to it, with tastefully placed interludes providing deep contrast between each of the different pieces.

Drab Majesty closed out the night with their live score for 'The Arrival'. The American duo had the most colourful performance of the evening, utilising stage lights to match the overwhelmingly '80s nature of 'The Arrival'.

It's hard to describe the actual content of the film, as it seemed completely involved in its own mythology, but it was still fascinating to learn about the beliefs of an obscure, yet still active, cult.

Utilising guitar and synth loops, Drab Majesty added a new dimension to the film, giving emotional weight to the decisions and tribulations caveman Zan was experiencing. The science-fiction atmosphere of the production gave shades of 'Star Wars', and the neon strobes and stage lights felt like sitting in an arcade, where every machine is trying to catch your attention.

Although Australia hasn't hosted a proper Drab Majesty tour since 2020, it was unique to experience the duo under their terms. Seeing the band in such an unorthodox manner was spectacular, fascinating, and unique.

Hopefully, they take this experience and develop it into further film scores, as it seems the duo have a knack for it.

- written by Dylan Hewitson-Bevis

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