Motorama @ The Lexington, London, 20/10/2018

MotoramaSomeone’s conducting a study before the show, asking questions about Motorama, non-Anglophone lyrics, and - inevitably - the band’s native Russia. Being the good citizens we are, we decide to contribute, giving the answers one might expect from any proud hand-wringing liberal.

When the band takes the stage, there’s only two of them. Motorama has had something of a rotating line-up, but two is definitely not enough. Soon enough frontperson Vladislav Parshin announces their drummer will not be playing with them today because he wasn’t able to get a visa. Say what you want about Russia, but we need to have a good long look at ourselves when artists aren’t able to get visas to the UK. Fucking Tories. Ahem.

Tonight’s percussive element will be courtesy of a ‘little red box’. The nerdy-looking Parshin and bruiser-like figure of Maxim Polivanov form quite the double act on stage; it almost has the vibe of a band formed between a computer science student and the security guard from the university tech lab. Somehow, though, it’s the perfect shoegaze aesthetic for this indifferently passionate group.

To their credit, the two give a wonderful performance without live drums. They swap between guitar, bass, and electronic manipulation, while Parshin occasionally slaps a cymbal - badly in need of a washer given the number of times he beats it to the floor.

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It’s an atmosphere-driven show. Their songs are moods rather than progressions – generally moods around the darker, murkier, and more dreamy side of the spectrum. The guitar shimmers, the bass purrs in a spare mechanical groove, and the sumptuous electronics that emanate from somewhere around the red box serve to blur the edges of everything into a hazy, evocative whole. Albeit one that remains danceable, by way of the snaps of the programmed beats.

People call them a Russian Joy Division. The influence is clear, but it doesn’t always fit perfectly; their edges are a bit softer. If you were playing spot the parallel you could say anything from Gary Numan and John Maus, to Real Estate, Craft Spells, or even a less frenetic bit of vintage Editors. We’re of course being Western-centric – in interviews, Parshin has discussed the influence of Soviet post-punk groups like Kofe, Megapolis, and Kino.

To level a criticism, you might say that a live set from Motorama doesn’t offer the greatest variety in tone and pacing. Not that the extremely partisan crowd seems to mind that. The show is sold out, and Motorama’s cultish following are having an absolute belter. It’s beautiful to see so many people enjoying a show on a Saturday night, rather than the grey indifference of concert presenteeism that often blights London shows.

As we leave, the interviewer from before shouts that it had been an awesome show. It was great, but what’s even better is to see music meaning so much to people. There’s an outside chance it’s all going to be okay after all…

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