Review Summary: Dark, yet shimmering with vibrancy, The Demonstration is a full course meal for anyone wishing to sink their teeth into an atmospheric experience.
Fads. They come, they go, and they inevitably return. Many times they ascend exactly as you remembered them, and other times they’ve shape shifted, embracing the changing of the times and incorporating nuances that hadn’t even existed prior. Whether it’s clothing, food, art, people long for nostalgia, a return to their roots, and to re-experience the same feelings they fell in love with years, and even decades prior, many times with a new enhanced twist. Meanwhile newcomers curiously seek to understand the past, and feverishly piece together the inspirations of those before them so they can stand on shoulders of giants. Music is no stranger to such trends. With seemingly countless genres pulling into an endless melting pot of experimentation, modern music has become a paradigm of being everywhere, yet somewhere that’s never been tread, all at once. One of the most rewarding discoveries someone can make is to discover something that can simultaneously evoke the pleasures and ecstasy of the past, but leave you spellbound with something new, a fresh creation that is sprinting forward into the future, and beyond. The Demonstration is such an experience.
Drab Majesty are a duo based out of Los Angeles, California. Upon watching a handful of their music videos, or seeing them perform a live set, you’ll immediately be bombarded with intense imagery. Thick white makeup, thickly laden lipstick, short bleached hair, thick sunglasses to keep out the minimal light already present in a nearly entirely darkened room, where shadows are cast and ominous thoughts wander. Draped in cloaks and leather, one wonders if they’re about to listen to music or be a participant in a paganistic ritual. Bracing yourself for what’s about to happen, the guitar is plugged in, the drum machine starts, light notes begin tapping away from a keyboard and ethereal guitar tones transcend the room. For as sharp as their bite appears, Drab Majesty’s music perfectly foils their intense image. While their jarring outfits may seem the intimidating sort an 80’s outcast scene punk would wear, a lost member of The Lost Boys, their music pierces the air with soothing calmness and precision. The juxtaposition makes their art and music all the more captivating.
With such an eclectic image, where exactly does Drab Majesty wish to take you once the music starts? Heavily influenced by Darkwave, Post Punk, Shoegaze and countless other genres, the Demonstration is a record that generates a dreary yet serene atmosphere. With constant nods to the 80’s in sound and image. Drab Majesty could very well be a band playing in a club in the Blade Runner universe, innocently playing while Blade Runner Rick Deckard scans the room and sips his drink, meticulously scanning for any possible replicants. Even in the modern world, their style and sound would fit neatly within the realm of 80’s music, with contemporaries such as The Cure, New Order, etc.
So, while Drab Majesty clearly has pulled together a unique image and a sound that can be placed within a specific, time, place and era, how do they keep it fresh? First, this record is ripe with guitar riffs. From catchy melodies, eerie instrumentals to danceable upbeat tracks, The Demonstration is packed with melodic licks that one could listen to late at night blaring in their car while they drive through the night to tunes that could be lighting up a gothic club deep into the early hours of the morning. While some may be sticklers to having a drum machine, I think that having such a lifeless mechanized beat set the tone for an overlay of lively keyboard work and electrifying guitar lines is the perfect counterbalance. The music is robotic, yet organic. Cold, yet completely alive. The vocals add yet again to this equation, with Deb Demure (Andrew Clinco) taking these duties along with guitar. Standard of the Darkwarve and Post Punk genre, Deb’s deep voice and monotonous yet versatile tone, in the vain of New Order and Depeche Mode, enhances the dark undertones of The Demonstration while still providing the nuanced cadences to still make you want to tap your foot and dance. From the wall of sound that hits you once Dot in the Sky begins, to the shoegazey dream state Cold Souls entrances you, The Demonstration is a record that takes you on a musical journey of highs and lows, dark atmosphere and heavenly sounds, and it’s a real trip from front to back.
Many may look at Drab Majesty with confusion, others may think they have very much amped up the Dark Wave image of those before them while walking a tight line between imagination and re-enactment. I strongly believe that Drab Majesty are a band in the right place at the right time, emulating a sound and style that desperately has been missing in the modern musical landscape for some time. While they certainly stand on the sound, image and achievements of those before them, I believe they are a fresh face and sound for new era of listeners who either haven’t discovered a deep catalog of music and plethora of similar bands or for those longing for a taste of the past with a new twist. The Demonstration is a record that will time travel yourself back to the past, while strapping you into a spaceship into the future, and if you’re willing to go along for the ride who knows where we and Drab Majesty made end up.