Madame Moustache, 26th September 2010
I bumped into Samy Birnbach a couply of months ago in a bar in Brussels, and had a very engaging conversation with him about the state of the music industry. He gave me a brief runthrough of his Minimal Compact days, how he got a bit disillusioned with it and got into DJing as DJ Morpheus, and how he’d had a few other musical projects all with their own merits and fraught with their own problems and egos. It struck me that he was a very genuine guy, and absolutely passionate about music, whether he was creating it, or getting people to dance to it.
He also told me that he’d recently bumped into a couple of guys who’d convinced / coerced him that they should get a band together and ‘resurrect’ some of his old stuff into a live format. I can’t quite remember a lot of detail, but the long and short of it was that they set up Morpheus Secrets (the title of an old Minimal Compaq track) to play a set consisting of songs that spanned Samy’s career.
And that’s what got me here tonight – Samy’s excitement and enthusiasm just talking about the project.
The venue, just off Place St Catherine, has a strange sort of burlesque / turn of the century sleaze feel to it. It’s well attended, organisation courtesy of the Fantastique Nights team, and as notable for the familiar faces who are there as for those who have not made it with it being a school night. And while nobody seems quite sure what to expect, it is certainly a respectable turnout.
The lineup is Samy on vocals, rhythm, lead and bass guitars, and a drummer (names escaped me). Immediately, they set the standard with a fast paced number that sounded just immaculate (good sound was to be a feature of the evening). Following on with old Minimal Compact favourite, Babylonian Tower, it’s clear that the band have really done a lot to make the songs their own and rearrange them to suit their own sound, and yet still remain faithful to the original.
Samy is the genuine article. They’re his lyrics, his songs, and the passion that I was expecting is there just as I thought it would be. What I wasn’t expecting was the sheer brilliance and versatility of the 2 guitarists. More than a hint of various post-punk elements, particularly Gang of Four, with a good dose of Chic on one side, and Robert Fripp to Metalica on the other. The detail work of getting so much out of those 2 guitars was a real treat for the ears. In fact, if you have to imagine a sound, just take whatever Samy has done in the past, and strip out the electronic or world music elements, and feed it through a very good post-punk rock band.
I can tell by looking around that most of the people here realise that they’re experiencing something pretty special. “This is our first gig” quips Samy, and he seems just as pleased as we are that he turned up. We also got treated to cheery old Minimal Compaq songalongs Statik Dancin and Autumn Wheels, a few Penelope’s numbers, and last, but by no means least, a stunning rendition of Next One Is Real.
No encore, but no encore is needed. We’ve just seen one of the most sensational gigs of the year. And the next one, well – Next One Is Real.
P.S. I did hear rumous of an album, and I hope that is real too.