By Mary Chang
on Monday, 20th October 2014 at 2:00 pm
If you were to run into Tom Vek in an everyday situation – say you’re in Gregg’s buying a sausage roll and he’s behind you in the queue – you would have no idea a bloke like him would be a cult electronic hero. With his black, thick-rimmed glasses and massive head (hey, big heads = big brains, I can attest to this, I have a big head too), he looks more like a boffin who should be in a lab coat, working out the cure for cancer.
But no, thankfully this anorak has focussed his energies and synapses towards music. In certain circles, Vek is a big deal, and understandably so: he’s a producer as well as being an adept musician, showing off his prowess Sunday night in Liverpool. Although he will be showcasing at CMJ in New York this month, Vek is just not massive enough stateside for anyone, much less himself, to take the financial risk of him touring there, so I’d never seen him until the night.
Opening at the Kazimier were Leeds four-piece Fun Adults. They’ll remind you a lot of Wild Beasts; like the Kendal band and Vek, they take full advantage of both traditional rock band and electronic elements. However, I mention Wild Beasts because this band has two vocalists that take turns with the spotlight and both favour a falsetto, admittedly not my favourite.
The real question we’re left with is, does the world really need another Wild Beasts? To their credit, Fun Adults can be much more dancier and funkier than the Kendalites, which is always a plus in my book, and they also showed their versatility in track ‘Eavesdropper’. Starting the song quietly as the singer gently strummed his acoustic guitar, what a shock it was as the number built into a monster, the funky drummed rhythm propelling the song towards its climax.
Vek had taken a 6-year hiatus between the critically acclaimed debut from 2005, ‘We Have Sound’, and 2011’s ‘Leisure Seizure’, so waiting another 3 years for ‘Luck’ to appear wasn’t a huge surprise. However, you could tell easily that many of the punters in attendance at the lovely Kazimier, a Sound City venue near and dear to us TGTFers, were fans from way back, cheering and whooping at the mere mention of “..in a black 1989 Mercedes Benz…” of ‘Nothing but Green Lights’. One of them Liverpudlians even went so far as humming – loudly and emphatically – the too familiar opening notes of ‘’, with Vek smiling, insisting, “but that’s not one of mine. I think you’re at the wrong gig!”, all before his sequencer / guitarist Sam (who Vek referred to as 5 AM) repeated the same notes with buttons of his sequencer pressed in quick and impressive succession.
A lot of people who aren’t into electronic music, and who are sceptical of the genre like my own mother, think these kinds of artists aren’t real musicians, that everything they do is computer generated and there is no real artistry to their sound. So I was actually quite pleasantly surprised to see Vek showing off his guitar and bass playing abilities, proving to anyone who needed evidence that unlike the manufactured pop stars of today, he is an artist not borne of a well-stocked studio but of true musicianship along with quite good production chops!
Where to begin? Vek played for over an hour and a half with minimal stoppage time between songs. It was, in short, an electro head’s dream. I thought several times during the set I might need to pinch myself to confirm this show was actually happening before my very eyes, on the same stage I’d seen Glass Animals and We Have Band unleash their own selections of synths on a Sound City audience this past May. One can see why Vek’s voice divides opinion: its nasal, atonal qualities make it sound nearly robotic, but if you consider it in the grand scheme of his music, it completely works as another one of his instruments, a disaffected, unemotional player while the instrumentation serves to bring the funk.
As he’s got several albums to his name, Vek had an incredible back catalogue to draw from, while also bringing to the fore several of the tracks from ‘Luck’. One of the most successful of these were ‘Pushing Your Luck’, which benefitted from a surprise mix into Salt ‘n’ Pepa’s ‘Push It’. Imagine it being sung in Vek’s voice! After it was played and Vek was sure about its warm reception, he quipped, “everyone needs a little Salt ‘n’ Pepa in their life every once in a while”. Indeed, Mr Vek. ‘Aroused’, from ‘Leisure Seizure’, with its massive trilled beats, reverberated off the walls of the Kazimier. If a man who looks as geeky as Vek can pull off a song about sex and get a whole crowd in Liverpool all worked up, it gives us all hope, doesn’t it?
His set ended with recent single ‘Sherman (Animals in the Jungle)’, the entire crowd moving and grooving to every beat, proving even 3 years out from ‘Leisure Seizure’, he’s still got it. Like so many indie acts I love, I wish for Vek to do massively well commercially around the world. At the same time though, watching him at the Kazimier last night play to a very decently-sized crowd, all of whom clearly loved and enjoyed his music, made you feel like you were part of something very intimate and special and I wouldn’t have traded anything in the world for the experience.
After the cut: Tom Vek’s set list.
Continue reading Live Review: Tom Vek with Fun Adults at Liverpool Kazimier – 12th October 2014
By Mary Chang
on Monday, 25th August 2014 at 6:00 pm
Time is ticking down to when I get to see Tom Vek perform live for the first time. This new promo video for ‘Pushing Your Luck’ from his latest album ‘Luck’ (read my review here) is just exponentially increasing my excitement!
In a Vegas-style fruit machine type format with three windows that flip downwards, showing in Vek is various modes of too cool for school in a pair of shades, sometimes playing various instruments, sometimes appearing in front of way too brightly coloured backdrops, it’s visual genius to accompany the rhythmically engaging track. Watch the video below.
All the TGTF Tom Vek-flavoured goodness is this way. He’ll be touring the UK in October.
By Mary Chang
on Friday, 11th July 2014 at 4:00 pm
Last month, TGTF favourites Teleman (pictured at top) and Tom Vek appeared at a Sofar Sounds session in London and the fine folks from the living room gig organisers have released some great video from the night. Watch below as Teleman perform single ’23 Floors Up’ from their amazing debut album ‘Breakfast’ (reviewed here) and Vek breaks out ‘Trying to Do Better’ from his latest album ‘Luck’ (reviewed here).
By Mary Chang
on Monday, 9th June 2014 at 12:00 pm
Three years have passed since Tom Vek’s last album outing, 2011’s ‘Leisure Seizure’, and now he’s back to bring summer grooves to the dance-loving public with ‘Luck’. Is he patting himself on the back with the album’s title, or is he wishing for this release to do well? Let us be the judge of that after we have a listen.
‘Sherman (Animals in the Jungle)’ was our first taste of Vek’s latest material. With a driving rhythm, glitchy synth noises and Vek’s trademark droll, unemotional lyrics, I hoped it was a wonderful sign of all the good to come. I was beside myself upon hearing it for the first time. As should be expected from the talented multi-instrumentalist, no two tracks are the same sonically, with loads of layers to explore, which is what I’ve always loved best about his music. But initially, I had trouble getting into this album from the start. Album opening track ‘How Am I Meant to Know?’ sees Vek’s atonal voice bordering on Tibetan monk chanting. Eep.
Luckily (no pun intended), if you can get past the first track, there are much better moments to be had. The rhythmically catchy ‘Pushing Your Luck’ will get your head bopping and toes tapping, and the percussively shimmery start of ‘Trying to Do Better’ gives way to a song that begs for a pair of sunglasses, a sexy dress and dancing heels.
Vek also deserves bonus points for doing exactly what he’s not supposed to (or at least what the charts tell him). Quirky is the best way to describe ‘Ton of Bricks’, which I’m guessing is what Sting would sound like if he tried singing along to an electronic record; it’s a bit marmite though. ‘The Girl You Wouldn’t Leave for Any Other Girl’, an attempt at a ballad, is oddly sympathetic with the squeaking of guitar notes left in on purpose.
So what’s not good on this album? For all its positive robotic attributes, ‘Broke’ gets taken over by those very same robotic noises and wiggly, wiggy synth noises, and the song gets lost. There is a similar issue to ‘You’ll Stay’: it seems like Vek’s voice is fighting with too much instrumentation noise, and he’s losing. As a singer, I can’t help but feel a little sad. Maybe that was the whole point? But then you wonder if maybe he should have just left it as an instrumental.
What’s strange is next track and LP standout ‘The Tongue Avoids the Teeth’ doesn’t suffer from the same vocals vs. music disharmony. Instead, everything is where it should be, in the right volume and in perfect working order with one another, whether it’s the rapid beat that makes your pulse start racing at the half-minute mark, the ‘80s New Wave synth bridge or the way Vek holds his vocal notes to match what he’s hearing in his headphones.
Yes, if you live in a world of Ableton and sequencers, think Robert Moog was a god, etc., this is an exciting album to hear and probably to own. Overall, I liked this album and I’m not surprised that I do. But it still seems hardly accessible to the average music fan. And This seems perfectly fine to the man himself: he says of the album that it’s “garage rock for the ProTools generation”. But probably an even better way to describe the album comes directly from the press release for the album. “As ever, Vek delivers an album that defies straightforward definition.” What you make of that is up to your own musical tastes.
‘Luck’, Tom Vek’s highly anticipated third album, is out today on Moshi Moshi Records. He will be touring the UK in October. For more information on the artist, visit his official Web site.
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 27th May 2014 at 9:00 am
Beat bringer Tom Vek will be touring the UK in June. Tickets to this tour are on sale now.
Vek’s new album ‘Luck’ is out on the 9th of June and features the wicked ‘Sherman (Animals in the Jungle)’, which we featured in early May here on TGTF.
Friday 3rd October 2014 – Falmouth Pavilions
Saturday 4th October 2014 – Oxford Art Bar
Monday 6th October 2014 – Portsmouth Wedgewood Rooms
Tuesday 7th October 2014 – Brighton Haunt
Wednesday 8th October 2014 – Manchester Gorilla
Thursday 9th October 2014 – Glasgow King Tut’s
Saturday 11th October 2014 – Leeds Cockpit
Sunday 12th October 2014 – Liverpool Kazimier
Tuesday 14th October 2014 – Nottingham Bodega
Wednesday 15th October 2014 – London Koko
Get your dancing shoes on, yo. Tom Vek is back with ‘Sherman (Animals in the Jungle)’, sprinkled with wonky shards of synthesiser sharp enough to poke your eye out, and of course a boss dance rhythm underneath it all. It’s the first taste of his upcoming album ‘Luck’, out on the 9th of June. The song is absolutely brilliant. Watch Vek do the robot in the promo below.