GusGus in London

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  • Founded in 1995, Icelandic four-piece GusGus have eluded the typical boom and bust that most other bands experience, all the while staying loyal to their retro-inspired sound. Their signing to German super-label Kompakt in 2009 heralded a new era, resulting in three studio albums including their most recent, Mexico. The LP is a continuation of their distinct brand of stylish dance-driven pop, and I was intrigued to see how they would deliver it in a live setting—especially in such a unique and historical venue as Camden’s KOKO. The former theatre is surprisingly intimate considering its capacity of 2,500, its many stalls and walkways contributing to its subterranean feel. GusGus began promptly, greeting the audience with the grinding acid hook of "Mexico," played live through a desk loaded with analogue hardware. People started dancing as soon as the drums kicked in, arms readily suspended in the air in anticipation of the breakdown. The band proceeded into "Obnoxiously Sexual," one of the strongest cuts on the new album. During a momentary break in the music, lead singer Högni Egilsson addressed the audience: "Hello London town, are we feeling a bit hot tonight? A bit sexual perhaps?" From there, GusGus mixed things up a bit, powering through their trance-laden hit "Over." The ensemble was completed by the arrival of second lead singer Daníel Haraldsson for "Airwaves," whose pure, silky voice matched superbly with Egilsson’s. Live vocals are hard to get right in dance music, but here the balance was perfect. To close, they performed a powerful rendition of their uplifting 2007 single "Moss," complete with extravagant '80s dance moves and clapping from the crowd. Given the depth of GusGus' music, I would have preferred to see it performed by a full live band, as opposed to KOKO's hardware + vocals set-up. That said, their consolidated approach was still thoroughly entertaining. Despite being in the game for two decades now, GusGus certainly haven't lost their groove.