Live Review: Ned Collette & Wirewalker - Northcote Social Club

26 June 2012 | 3:18 pm | Guido Farnell

A welcome return to his hometown finds Collette sounding somewhat transformed.

Middle-aged rockers Infinite Orbit glumly drop their set to a largely empty NSC bandroom. On a frigidly cold winter's evening, the few punters who arrive early are huddled together and trying to keep warm. Infinite Orbit dispense noisy, out-of-tune pop jangles accompanied by crazed atonal vocals that climax in an awkward falsetto on their show-stopping finale. They collect random claps from around the room, but most people are chatting or looking kind of numb and staring into space with glazed eyes.

Tonight proves to be quite the musical odyssey as Turkish pop music is used to bridge the gap between Infinite Orbit and Mary Ocher's sets. Hailing from Russia but now residing in Berlin, Ocher is a delightfully zany character whose bizarre set leaves the crowd a little perplexed and giggling nervously. Dressed in a black leotard and bikini top adorned with the kind of gold chains a belly dance would wear, Ocher aggressively plays punk guitar that's reminiscent of early PJ Harvey. Yet instead of opting for volume and power she channels her guitar through a tiny amp that renders it tinny. Disappointingly, most of her set is accompanied by headache-inducing feedback. Ocher, who has recently been working with King Khan, fiercely screeches and squawks with the intensity of a deranged kewpie doll throwing a prolonged temper tantrum. At times it is hard not to be reminded of Nina Hagen. She is asking us to swallow a nasty, raw and jagged angst-ridden little pill, but because of its bitter taste most just spit it out. At the end of her set, Ocher proves that she is just a big old softie when she reveals that her trip to Australia has been disappointing because she has not yet encountered a koala bear.

Surprisingly, the lady next to us turns out to be Ned Collette's mother and we are talking earthquakes in New Zealand as the curtains go up on Ned Collette & Wirewalker. After all the quirky noise we have endured this evening, Collette and his colleagues sound supremely slick as they introduce themselves with Il Futuro Fantastico. Collette's guitar shimmers and the mix is fleshed out with dreamy synths and beats that suggest disco. Celebrating the release of their latest album, 2, Collette and his band continue the set by playing the first five tracks off that album in sequence. While the songwriting remains solid, the arrangements have a kind of pastel-coloured '80s feel to them. The ladies swoon as he is looking pretty suave in pristine white jeans and a linen jacket. It is clear that since relocating to Berlin Collette has absorbed a whole lot of continental style. Tunes such as For Roberto and The Pool Is Full of Hats, for instance, showcase Collette's growing fondness for Spanish-influenced guitar. The synthetic atmospherics that underline much of tonight's set coalesce into dreamy cosmic disco on Long You Lie, which hits a joyous, feelgood note. It's hard to believe that Collette was once all-too-easily filed away under folk rock when tonight he is producing a dreamy wash of sound that brings to mind acts like Air. Encoring with What Lights Have You Seen?, which melts into The Country With A Smile, allows the band to slip into an extended jam and get their kosmische on. Collette dominates, a true virtuoso during his spellbinding extended guitar solo. A welcome return to his hometown finds Collette sounding somewhat transformed.