Review: HEALTH, The Dome.

At their very core, HEALTH may be harder than anything on this coming weekend’s Download rundown. Nevertheless, that nucleus is now surrounded by a considerably softer crust, that tonight sees the Californians’ electronics (re)create many a seminal electro-pop trope…

The focus of this one-off show at The Dome, Tufnell Park may remain the performative elements that have, visually, served the band so very well down the years – the way in which they reconstruct their onstage configuration in order to wreak maximum havoc, John Famiglietti and Jupiter Keyes recurrently wresting an unmiked floor tom from one side of the stage to the other as though it were the rope in an exceptionally aggressive tug of war; resident noisenik Famiglietti slaps and pats, rather than stomping and trampling upon his pedalboard when needing to trigger various effects; they all flail like prototypal aquatic types, washed ashore for the very first time – although never before has all this seemed so much like a smokescreen. Because what tonight is all about is the conjuring of Death Magic; the album that now looks and sounds absolutely certain to clandestinely breathe life into 2015, and bring HEALTH to a wider audience than those still mourning the slow, painful death of Crystal Castles as it does so.

As though attempting to instantly distance themselves from what has thus far proven – and, judging by the number of T-shirts depicting that particular Trevor Brown graphic, seemingly continues to prove – a spectacularly persistent association, Crimewave washes in and out within minutes; Die Slow, another relatively iconic number from the Los Angeleno quartet’s formidable back catalogue, is sped through posthaste too. And so, as they dispose of their signature tracks with what seems almost callous disregard, it’s all the more melodious, synth-poppy new material that emerges in their wake and takes incontrovertible precedence. I guess the accessibility that comes with such numbers as the superb, pulsating Stonefist and the punch-drunk New Coke may yet prove a point of contention to some, and on the evidence put forward this evening, HEALTH have managed to maintain a devout, vociferous cult following all of their own. But they should be revered for this veering off into (dare I say it, slightly) more mainstream territories musical: for if forever there – albeit making itself manifest as a comparatively latent threat previously – this eminently magnificent lot have never been in finer fettle, nor a better bill of you-know-what.

Underpinning the whole thing are Benjamin Jared Miller’s vivifying rhythms that, perhaps improbably, are as appropriate to those screamo moments of yore as they are the kinetic, watertight synthetic workouts of today. But Jake Duzsik has also come on considerably since their preceding release – Get Color, 2009 – as his lysergic, discomfiting monotone has since developed, or indeed evolved into a thing of raucous wonder; an intense tangle of the vocal cords of Messrs Gahan, Gibbard, Molko, Tennant and so on. Of course they still call upon the visceral 8-bit techno of Death+ and the breakneck clamour of We Are Water, at which points Duzsik’s vocal regresses somewhat, which contributes to a most schizophrenic show. But it’s when they rely upon a more band-orientated sound; when their instruments are seen less as accessories and more like accomplices, that HEALTH are at their very best…

And so, if it might henceforth become that bit more difficult for them to revisit their previous releases live as they progress (to which the Stonefist lyric, “And though we know how far we’ve come/ We stay possessed by what we lost” could paraphraseologically refer), it finally looks as though HEALTH are now ready to inflict a greater cultural damage; to disseminate a sense of unsettled agitation and general unrest that’s spread farther and wider, and appears perfectly apposite to the current status quo. Thus although the likes of Courtship II, Dark Enough and Salvia present a more polished approach, a palpable rancour continues to course throughout the whole show.

“We’re HEALTH, from Los Angeles; thanks for stickin’ around” says Duzsik by way of goodbye, no more than a mere fifty minutes before they first materialised tonight. However, among various monosyllables, it’s a sentiment that sticks like a Stonefist to the stomach; one that seemingly refers not merely to tonight, but so too to the patience and perseverance that has thus far been shown unto them. It’s this which is about to be repaid in full, and then some.

Admittedly, personally, I’d be misleading were I to write that there were never times – as I’m sure you know – at which I struggled to see HEALTH as anything other than a peculiarity; a pestilent, quirky four-piece with a faddish novelty factor sure to wear thin, and later wear through altogether. Yet not only have they never condescended to die a death that once seemed inevitable, but they now seem more vivifying than ever before. And it’s this to which a bracing, 30-second encore attests. Because HEALTH really are a one-off; and long may they continue to live on now, as far as I’m concerned…