Georgia Ellery poses enigmatically against a backdrop projection of herself. The vocalist and violinist, who makes up one half of experimental duo Jockstrap, is stalking the stage of nightclub Heaven, while a shaky, multi-camera set-up beams her live movements against the long tunnel of this railway arch venue. As they begin ‘Neon’, her producer bandmate Taylor Skye stays glued to his equipment beside her. Cameras zoom in and out, Jeopardy-style, while Ellery cradles a microphone in the curve of her neck. The suspense is delicious.

Slick, clever and committed, Ellery and Skye’s live show makes for a masterful display of tension and release. Over the course of an hour, the pair – who met as students at London’s prestigious Guildhall School of Music & Drama – offer mysterious excursions into happy hardcore mixed with bhangra-like strings (‘Debra’) and digitised mischief (‘Greatest Hits’), while they break down their songs before pulling them back together. As they proved on ‘I Love You Jennifer B’, arguably the most widely acclaimed debut album of 2022, the thought of sticking to one sound is alien to Jockstrap; Skye’s increasingly distinct production style, meanwhile, has made him a cult name-to-know, with credits on Slowthai’s forthcoming third album, ‘Ugly’.

Credit: Eva Pentel for NME

The set goes on euphorically, and often menacingly, with Jockstrap mixing the bulk of ‘I Love You Jennifer B’ with flashes of earlier material – including a revamped, pitch-shifted rendition of ‘The City’ – with everything marinated in weighty atmospherics. The bass is carvinously loud – or powerful enough to kill a Victorian child, to borrow internet speak. Underneath an erratic light display, the intensity of ‘Concrete Over Water’ is multiplied tenfold; as a glitchy breakdown rumbles towards its peak, Ellery holds her violin bow before her like armour as the audience prepares to descend into another spiral of noise.

Then, between songs, Jockstrap often become a quiet and endearingly nervous pair, Ellery seemingly embarrassed by the repeated pauses she has to take as the crowd cheers over her minimal stage talk. Later, throughout the lilting ‘Glasgow’ – a paean to young adulthood – she delivers bittersweet hooks from an acoustic guitar, her gorgeous voice cutting through the static noise. For a moment, the manic, gleeful rave that was unfolding on stage earlier on feels like a fever dream, or another gig entirely. Similarly, the gently melodic ‘What’s It All About?’ feels stately next to the hyperactivity of the band’s other material.

Credit: Eva Pentel for NME

Jockstrap clearly enjoy these dramatic shifts of tone, yet from the crowd, it can occasionally feel like watching a band entering yet another elongated and complex jam session. Perhaps recognising this, they avoid an encore and race into ‘50/50’. Amplified by thundering breakbeats, the track’s build is monstrous, while Skye runs back and forth to his workstation, head-banging, to trigger the next beat or synth line. This continued chaos may feel surreal and unrelenting, but when you don’t think too hard about it, it’s so much damn fun.

Jockstrap played:

‘Jennifer B’
‘Greatest Hits’
What’s It All About?’
‘Lancaster Court’
‘Concrete Over Water’
‘The City’
‘I Want Another Affair’ (Taylor Skye remix)

The post Jockstrap live in London: a stellar, wilfully idiosyncratic gig of two halves appeared first on NME.


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