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23rd November 2023

bdrmm live in Manchester: Techno haven hosts immersive shoegaze

The Hull-based quartet’s electronic shoegaze is typically immersive, but the surround sound of the venue gave their sonic landscape a whole new dimension
bdrmm live in Manchester: Techno haven hosts immersive shoegaze
Credit: Otto Mendelsson

bdrmm are the latest shoegaze band making waves in the genre’s revival. But what sets them apart isn’t their pristine resumé: a debut album immediately hailed as a modern shoegaze masterpiece, support sets for shoegaze giants Ride, and backing from Mogwai as a part of their label Rock Action Records. The band’s rapid expansion onto the scene is more justly characterised by their consistent experimental edge, and careful attention to sonic detail.

Their 2023 sophomore release I Don’t Know sees bdrmm blend dizzying fuzz with urgent undercurrents of electronica. The record also stands out due to Ryan Smith’s lyricism, evoking raw introspection with themes on mental health. Whilst classic 90s shoegaze slots almost inaudible phrases into a bigger soundscape, bdrmm are transparent without detracting from their ethereal sound.

With this in mind, our pilgrimage to Salford on a rainy Tuesday evening began to make sense. The White Hotel is the perfect setting to bridge the gaps between genres, as a performance space coveted by bands and DJs alike. bdrmm could certainly sell out larger venues, but this more intimate setting, with its surround sound design, promises fans an experience truer to their noisy essence.

Supporting band DAMEFRISØR appeared from behind the curtain. The Bristol sextet have been refining their sound together since they formed in 2019, and Kahzi Jahfar kicked off their set with palpable intensity. His voice, dark and ominous, reached out to the crowd and began to quietly shake things up. Jahfar moved erratically through tracks like ‘2-HEH-V’ and ‘D.O.D.’, where the band placed frantic, popping synths over a deep wash of guitar tones. DAMEFRISØR could be best described as live creators of post-punk-tronica.

Through a series of contrasts like these, DAMEFRISØR’s set played out with intentional abrasiveness, setting the progressive tone of the rest of the night. With a bundle of successful singles and an EP under their belt, it seems an exciting time for this band, with listeners poised to receive a full project.

From the moment that the Hull quartet walked on to ‘Angel’ by Massive Attack, the stage was set for an immersive and genre-warping experience. Their set began with new album opener ‘Alps’, with an extended intro building a bed of synths and guitar pedal notes around an electronically processed kick drum. In shoegaze, vocals are typically obscured amongst the surrounding cacophony but Smith’s reverb-soaked vocals entered front and centre amongst the swirling synths as he lamented: “It appears there’s no hope” and “You’re not special they’ll destroy the things you love.”

Lyrical introspection is a central theme for bdrmm, most explicitly so in leading single ‘Be Careful’, a reminder of the importance of self-preservation for mental health. Constituent scalic bass and lead guitar lines are layered over Connor Murray’s crosshatching to create a complex emotionally charged anthem.

bdrmm’s shoegaze soundscape is characterised by guitarists Ryan Smith and Joe Vickers‘ versatile pedal boards. This helps the band to both lean into abrasiveness through distortion and shroud emotionally vulnerable lyricism in a delightful blend of reverb, echo, chorus, and delays which create the pulsating yet ethereal feeling of their live show.

This grunge-esc distinction between loud and quiet was most apparent in ‘It’s Just A Bit Of Blood’. An opening wall of sound gave way to an electronic filtered drum pattern and broken chords drenched in chorus and reverb over which Smith contemplated “Where did my heart go?”. The closing moments of the song were when the quartet really let loose, transforming the concept of a wall of sound into 4D, where it felt like the room was being engulfed.

bdrmm’s attention to detail was clearly evident in new album track ‘Hidden Cinema’, where the rhythm section shone. The track opened with Aphex Twin-inspired electronic patches before Jordan’s angular bassline was matched with Connor’s intriguing tom pattern, both perfectly synchronous yet seemingly unconventional. This was reflected in the guitar lines where the delay patterns were out of sync with one another but blended to create a cohesive whole which gave way to the synth-led chorus.

This synth-led approach continued in recently released 7-inch ‘Mud’, which may be symbolic of a further change in direction for the band. This track fused their sound with a filtered breakbeat drum pattern that was introduced intermittently throughout the comparatively subdued instrumentation, with the tension finally being released when the drums become louder in the climax of the song.

Debut album closer ‘Forget The Credits’ was the tranquil moment in the set where the audience could take a breath and bask in the heavenly sound of rung-out guitar chords, layered with pedals and backing vocals, over a slow beat which gave room for a spacious solo.

This signified the transition to a sequence of songs from their critically acclaimed debut. In ‘Push/Pull’ Smith’s word painting of “I fly so high” was mirrored through the reverb and echo-infused effects which helped his vocal appear to be floating above the rest of the mix. Fan favourite ‘Happy’ is one of the first tracks that the band ever wrote and despite that, their energy and enthusiasm for playing the track was evident. This formed the pinnacle of the set, as the band created a wall of sound at the end led by Jordan’s manipulation of feedback, before transitioning into ‘(Un)Happy’, where the memorable riff was taken into halftime. It felt like you had entered the rehearsal space in which the band was undergoing an experiment.

Willingness to experiment is partly why bdrmm have come a long way in an astonishing space of time. Progressing from bedroom recordings between brothers Ryan and Jordan Smith in “Sunny Hull,” to their carefully crafted set at such an iconic Manchester venue. The bdrmm live experience is significantly unique, not least due to the recording methods used on ‘I don’t know’, where all of its sounds were happened upon digitally. The band had to work to recreate each and every tone on various pedalboards for the live set.

This commitment clearly paid off, as such snippets of trivia were granted to us when catching up with “bdrmmrs” from the band’s official Facebook fan group. This group are equally as dedicated to the bdrmm cause, following the band up and down the UK on tour to show their support. One member even revealed that Manchester marks her 47th show.

The set ended with ‘Port’, a single released between their two albums – fittingly the band’s first release that delved more into their electronic influences informing the direction of their new album. Jordan’s warped synth bass line pierced the skin in the surround sound set up of the White Hotel and Smith’s lyric “You sure do know about me” was prophetic of a band on the rise who recently announced their next Manchester outing at Band on the Wall in March 2024.

Caitlin Mear

Caitlin Mear

She/Her, Head of Music and presenter for Fuse FM, history student, a fan of alternative rock & Manchester’s local music scene

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