Zea @ Café OTO
Dalston Café OTO. 30jan11.
Sweat surges from Arnold De Boer’s forehead and scalp, dripping from his chin with such regularity that a stalagmite begins to form next to his floor monitor.
When I first saw Zea, back in 2003, there were two of ‘em, but a 50% cut in manpower means Remko Muermans is no longer involved. The songs were always Arnold’s in the most part anyway yet you’d have thought with his workload playing and singing with post-punk heroes The Ex, he’d have welcomed a bit of help on stage.
However for yer modern day Zea experience Arnold is handling all duties: vocals, guitar and electronics. Thus it is should be no surprise that his face appears to process more water than the Grand Coulee Dam.
This tour is supporting his fourth LP The Beginner and as a result the vast majority of the set comprises material from that record. Which means no Counting Backwards Leads To Explosions or We Buried Indie Rock Years Ago; two fine singles which, if they were mine, I’d rather be inclined to show off.
Yet this LP has signalled a growth, and a sound clearly influenced in part by Arnold’s recent excursions to Ethiopia and Ghana with The Ex and where his Zea gear was also toured. Traditional elements of his sound, bringing a They Might Be Giants lightness of touch to Chinese-burn fuzz-punk and hectic electro are present and correct, but are joined in the new stuff by a gonzo Africana on tracks like Song For Electricity (a track based on Bogiye by Abonesh Andrew) and I Follow Up Front.
Both are highlights this evening, as are Staande ben ik vergeten wat ik dacht toen ik lag which works a desert baggy groove, and Armpit Elastica where an almost happy hardcore beat is thrown down with lyrics that don’t stretch far from a repeated “I got this itch…”. During this, with no need to carry a guitar, Arnold is free to dance about, and uses this opportunity to hammer out tippy-toe pigeon steps, like Scooby Doo trying to sneak quietly but quickly into a snack-laden pantry.
The real treat though is Bourgeois Blues where the Leadbelly track is updated using the lyrics from The Fall’s Bourgeois Town version, but with a sparse, isolated arrangement where Arnold obtains his pulsing beat by working the fret-board.
Not allowed to leave until putting down two encores, one including the fiery Parked Forever, Arnold beams from ear-to-ear as he insists we all stick around to join him for a drink.
Think it’s fair to say he can chalk this one up as a triumph.
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