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Review: Pop. 1280 + SKY at Schokoladen

Brooklyn, New York’s Pop. 1280 brought their soul-rending talent to Schokoladen on Monday for a powerful performance in Berlin. Fans of dark industrial and synthwave rejoiced as the act groaned and grumbled its way into their hearts with a memorable and hard-hitting show.

Dullened, matter-of-fact percussion punctuated SKY’s reverberating melodies

The band benefited greatly from the support of Warsaw-based opener, SKY, whose well-cut, ethereal waves cascaded aptly into the more direct progressions of the headliner. Dullened, matter-of-fact percussion punctuated SKY’s reverberating melodies, feeling as if joining her in a cavernous, echoing chamber. The baroque and gothic feel of the performance’s most melodic and pop moments only reinforced this sensation. Fans of FKA Twigs wishing she grew up on shoegaze and The Cure would be well advised to take a listen.

Life is like a car crash / Sudden and sweet / Sometimes you’re the automobile / And sometimes you’re the street

After SKY’s set, her gear was exchanged for yet more keyboards and synthesizers, with which our other favorite Pop Group would do their dirty work. The set started abruptly and without warning, the full three-piece kicking into action immediately: no fanfare, no anticipation, and no ceremony. The set proceeded as such, devastating just like the grizzly car crash to which the many of the lyrics from the recent Way Station LP refer. “Life is like a car crash / Sudden and sweet / Sometimes you’re the automobile / And sometimes you’re the street.” Beaten bloody with lines like these, the audience had to wonder just which one they were themselves as they bore witness to the somber spectacle.

Intoxicating dance beats were ripped apart live before the eyes of the audience

The band’s live sound made room for frontman Chris Bug’s lyrics to command the show, but these gaps quickly closed shut behind him to deny even a second to catch one’s breath. Intoxicating dance beats and dark, yet hummable melodies were ripped apart live before the eyes of the audience by soaring phasers that struck without hesitation. The beat would occasionally snag for a glitch pattern, but primarily kept up pace with a reliable four on the floor. The single analog instrument, a (still electric) guitar, was mixed expertly to bring everything from a bit of rock ‘n’ roll edge to the blaring effect of a buzzsaw or the complementary sweep of a brush. Biting contrast was the theme of the event, which is as much a comment on the act’s range as its instrumental versatility. The select use of a standard piano sound on one of the keyboards, for example, made the pummeling effects and raw vocals from across the stage seem all the more jarring by reminding the listener just what the band was wailing against.

While the instrumentals carried the energy forward, Bug’s performance on vocals brought it to a screeching halt each time he launched into a verse. The single drumstick he wielded for his pads also gave him clear command of the stage as if a baton, wand, or traditional fasces.
Additionally, styled in a striped button-down and with hair drooping to one side of his half-shaved head, in any other location the frontman might have been confused with a fed-up office employee coming off of his worst Monday yet. The vocalist bent his lanky form into a crouch from which he would utter his most damning lyrics—less a power pose than one of defensive desperation. Berg’s voice often approached a hard-pressed whine, delivering a tone that would be familiar to emo listeners. His performance seemed at its strongest, however, when he adopted a low croon, which invoked a particularly haunting quality when set against the backdrop of tumultuous instrumentals.

Bug might have been confused with a fed-up office employee coming off of his worst Monday yet

Berliners who missed this show may have to wait a bit for their next tour, but the surprising frequency with which the act puts out albums bodes well for yet another trip in our direction. The band will, however, continue on into early March with further dates on its European tour. Not a show to miss, Pop. 1280 is sure to fill all your concert desires dissonant to dystopian.

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