The Glareless

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Live Review from Underground 117

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1. Lingering (Part 2)
2. Lingering (Part 1)
3. 800 Dollar
4. Soul Return Night
5. Voodoo
6. Do You Understand
7. Unburden ***Cut from set***

“Our music is inspired by everything bad around us,” shouted The Glareless’s Daniel Kiva, Hong Kong’s answer to Yes wizard Rick Wakeman for the synthpop generation. “Most of these bad feelings come from my fucking boss,” he adds with a chuckle. From the glove-wearing bassist Billy to the bizarre sounds tumbling from the stage like dry ice, everything about The Glareless is unexpected. Kiva turns out to be the incongruously profane mouthpiece of an intricate and technically-minded line-up, which puts its talented keyboard player Fat Wong and bass player at the fore.

It was music to get lost in. With the punchy, cutting bass, galactic synth oscillations and classical-inspired piano, in many ways it seemed the band was going for “Muse without guitar” at first. But as the genre-shifting sound blossomed and snaked down increasingly disparate avenues, reference points became harder to draw.

Two-part opener Lingering was a neatly-orchestrated instrumental ode to the same three chords. Brisk drums, chirping synths and undulating piano exemplified the first half, while a flurry of cymbals introduced Part 2, a more windswept, obscure version of its predecessor. The entire, immaculately-constructed set was like a Magic Eye game of shifting textures and colours; with cheesy, jazz lounge piano nestled alongside squeaky, pitch-shifted effects and tightly wound drums.

Fifth song Voodoo, dedicated to that “fucking boss”, was the most rock-driven performance – omitting the guitar for blissful bursts of synth arpeggios. Kiva conjured up some evil shaman madness, puncturing the air with hearty middle finger thrusts, while drummer Lego’s snares sped up like a round of gunshots before a simmering finish.

“This is our fucking last song!” bellowed Kiva, introducing Do You Understand. After all the menace, it seemed sweet and upbeat, with shimmering synths and almost Vanessa Carlton-like piano chords. A perfect example of the hidden treasures to be unearthed in Hong Kong’s deceptively rich music scene.
- El Jay


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Live Review from Songs without Words

1. Opening
2. Encounter
3. Lingering pt. 1
4. Unburden
5. Soul Return Night
6. Lingering pt. 2
7. Voodoo
8. Do You Understand?

Here is a bunch of boys with electro cred. Duelling Korgs, a Roland MC-307, drums and bass. Retro video game cues that tickle the CPU of this long-retired 8-bit gamer. Questionable haircuts, obviously. And most of all, a sense of theatre. “They have their own entry planned,” confides Chris B, with justified trepidation as the pack leader leaps to the stage, kicks off the funky opening loops and busts out the first of 40 solid minutes of wild dance moves.

The first genuine track of the set, Encounter, has a hint of Portishead sans precision as it takes a moment to settle before all players fall into line, which they do as soon as a backbeat is provided. The push-pull continues, however, as exactitude is sacrificed for energy, which you might say is fair enough. There’s a nice 6/8 feel here which never fails to establish motion. Then on to Lingering, an energetic number, again with a dash of chaos. It isn’t clear which instrument is leading at which time, but the 8-bit synth arpeggio is loveable and the classical piano trashing out alongside drums is a nice touch. Heads are nodding.

Unburden begins with a bagpipe sound – no wait, those are real bagpipes. An inspired guest spot, summoning the spirit of That Dog in its bizarre mashup of classical instrumentation and experimental electric pop. As with that band, it isn’t all peanut butter and honey, but it’s an entertaining experiment. Soul Return Night leads with an interesting bass riff which breaks into a samba feel backed by an insistent, industrial whine. This picks up a synth triplet pattern which is bolstered by J-rock style drums and powerful classical piano once again. The ensuing maelstrom IS, for anyone who knows, the soundtrack to the classic C64 game Monty On The Run. Tears of nostalgia well up in my eyes.

Next, Lingering has a reprise, and it’s a reprieve too as our ears can relax to some relatively standard piano rock. There’s a suggestion this one isn’t as involving for the band but it’s a breather for all concerned. Voodoo is again up tempo; while my friend suggests James Bond, I can’t get past the deliciously retro synth sounds. Do You Understand is the true-to-form closer and features the most illuminated major chord ending I’ve ever experienced in a bar setting.

The Glareless may be a little loose in the execution, but they’re brimming over with ideas, energy and passion. In sum, a ton of fun.

— Brendan Clift

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