Black Doldrums @ Camden Assembly, 15.03.24

Gothic post-punk trio showcase sterling new material from forthcoming second album

Mar 15th, 2024 at Camden Assembly, London / By Richard Lewis
Black Doldrums First band to the tread of boards of the venue-formerly-known-as-the-Barfly, Camden indie rock wellspring the Assembly are Tizane. Trading in slick, pumped up alt. rock tunes, it becomes apparent from the off the quartet can certainly play. And sing too, as their band name supplying leader underlines, moving from pirouetting high notes to moments reminiscent of Wolf Alice's Ellie Rowsell. Shifting down tempo the high point arrives with evocative acoustic driven cut Sleepwalking.

Launching into her set simultaneously at the same time as the lights going up, a cool move, London singer Freya Beer possesses songs that have the dichotomy of somehow being dark and shiny at the same time. Beer's Liz Taylor in Cleopatra gone goth look is paired with material that recalls the Banshees late 1980s era when they moved towards a more sensuous sound away from their initial post-pink jaggedness. The final track proves to be the strongest, a skillfully rendered stop-start, loud-quiet rampage.

Prior to the headliners' arrival, Black Doldrums establish themselves as innovators by having several copies of their setlist already pinned up around the room. A move several groups would never countenance as the spoiler alert would provoke a mass exodus to the bogs whenever new material was aired, no such worries present themselves with the current outfit however.

The booming Depeche Mode-esque thrum of Dreamcatcher kicks off proceedings from Walthamstow's finest, followed by early landmark Those With A Rope Around Their Necks (Don't Always Hang). Guided by Sophie's thunderous drumbeats, there seems to be an element of catharsis in her playing, as there does in singer / guitarist Kev's, the release of being onstage powering the dozen-strong set.

A deep dive into the workings of the band's second album due later this year sees roughly half of the LP essayed. Amidst the impressive intake, New Moon in particular stands out, a spiky blast of guitar pop that evokes Ride relocated to a cemetery in Oxford's dreaming spires. The low-slung riff of Tarantula (a reference to the bonkers Bob Dylan book?) meanwhile furthers the band's catalogue of gothic garage rock bangers.

In addition to the new songs is recently recruited bassist Dan who supplies additional heft to the crisp post-punk of Sad Paradise and the shadowy Paint It Black-esque rush of Mae's Desire. Aside from the standard rock hack gripe that one of their best tracks wasn't played (soaring alt rock gem She Divine), It's A Dandy Massacre supplies an epic finale, the trio wringing the last drop of emotion out of the song as it crosses the ten minute barrier.

Solid proof the 'Doldrums' rip-roaring live set is in rude health, on this showing their second album looks set to be something of a treat.