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Lilies on Mars at The Lexington London

Lillies on Mars – The Lexington, London, 26th June 2015

Lilies on Mars have been friends of mine for years, since I first arrived in London as a starry-eyed, naive teenager. We played several shows together, when I was I a very different band to the one I’m in now, and they were very different, too. Back then, we played guitars, basses and drums and, whilst we aimed to create music that was different to our Camden peers, despite the familiar instrumental format. Years later, we’ve followed a similar creative trajectory – eschewing the tried, tested and – frankly – boring instrumentation in favour of the wealth of gadgets that the Information Age has afforded us.

The fact that I was sent to review my old friends seems incredibly poignant this weekend, as our contemporaries have all emerged from the woodwork to voice their disdain for electronic music (yes, mostly directed at Kanye West), proclaiming that it’s not “real” music. Out of my fellow Camden Class of 2008 alumni, it seems that only Lilies on Mars have joined the 21st Century.

Progression appears to be the foundation of LoM’s philosophy. “We’re only playing new songs tonight”, Marina told me after greeting me with a warm hug. I adore their previous work – the frankly massive “Passing By” from their self-titled 2008 debut; the anthemic (yet never bloated) “A Lost Cause” from 2011’s “Wish You Were A Pony”, and the fever dream squall of “Su” from the same album come to mind – so I was equally deflated and intrigued to hear that I’d be hearing exactly zero songs I’d heard before, barring the new single, “Dancing Star”. But, I wasn’t going to be disappointed.

Lilies on Mars at The Lexington London
Lilies on Mars at The Lexington London

Lit only by a slowly changing projection that looked like landing footage of a cabin’s view of a landing on a digital planet, Lisa and Marina began tweaking and tapping at various devices, Lisa even playing a synth bass part on percussion pads with a drum stick, adding an exhilarating physicality to one of the opening numbers (I don’t have any song titles to aid me, so bear with me here. If you go to YouTube and search “Lilies on Mars 2015, it’s part 2 from The Old Blue Last”. I’ve been watching it relentlessly), and the fact that you can’t easily determine the origin of most of the sounds adds to the whimsy and mystery that has been LoM’s calling card for almost a decade.
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Liberated from the constraints of the band format and electric guitar, Lilies on Mars 2015 is a varied, metamorphic experience, shifting from sweetness, to intensity, to vitriol, then back again at will – sometimes in the space of a single song. Lisa even pushed her synth to the floor at the end of the main set – decidedly uncharacteristic of the Lilies of yore – but I was reassured when she apologetically picked it up at the start of the encore. Not once did I yearn for familiar material; I eagerly awaited each new shift and movement, and I was rewarded at every turn. They’re still as otherworldly and saccharine as ever – now supercharged by the freedom that electronic music offers. There are glimpses of the past, with the Rowland S Howard-esque Jag mangling clatter when they pick up the guitar, and the ever-present harmonies that sound at once angelic and alien. However, neither the elements of the past or future feel shoehorned into each other; it is, by all accounts, a progression that feels natural, even when it’s as drastic as this.

Lilies on Mars at The Lexington London
Lilies on Mars at The Lexington London

Turning to gauge the reaction of the audience, it seems that I wasn’t alone in my sentiments. Not once were there shouts of “Aquarium’s Key!” or “My Liver Hurts!” (far too early in the night for the latter). Lilies On Mars are on a voyage to far-out new places, but everyone’s on board with them.

 

Lilies on Mars at The Lexington London
Lilies on Mars at The Lexington London

Pictures by Brett Anderson.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.