Strong Asian Mothers – The Hope & Ruin – 28th February 2018

Photo by Liam McMillen

Hidden Herd, the online new music magazine, brought their ‘Hidden Herd Presents’ show to Brighton for the first time with a line-up that showcased the eclecticism of their listening tastes at The Hope & Ruin on a bitterly cold Wednesday night. Indie power pop band Bokito, dance pop duo MOONOVERSUN, Brighton indie band Safe to Swim, and trip-hop-meets-indie-disco band Strong Asian Mothers all brought something different in a night of diverse, multi-formed pop music.

Bokito, named after a Dutch gorilla that escaped his cage and attacked a woman, opened the gig to a modest crowd. On Facebook they simply state that, “We’ll make you dance” and, in many ways, that’s the perfect description for them. Their set was made up of exciting, calypso-like pop music that displayed dance beats capable of making even the most conservative dance. Yet, no one was dancing more than frontman Moses Moorhouse, who pulled out some outrageous moves in a set that was as confident as the singer himself. Debut single ‘Better at Getting Worse’ was undoubtedly the highlight, with its mix of indie, afrobeat, and power pop that recalls the art-pop of Everything Everything and the adolescent fun of Vampire Weekend.

Brighton’s, “Wonky pop duo” MOONOVERSUN quickly metamorphosed the atmosphere into something akin to an Ibiza pool party blended with a dingy Berlin club. It’s clear to see the duo’s influences from this set, with the pop sensibilities of Dua Lipa and Charli XCX, as well as the sultry dance anthems of early Rihanna and Tommy Genesis crystallizing and amalgamating as the set continued. Importantly, though, they’ve got the memorable pop songs to back-up those influences, with even a section of the crowd singing along to their haphazard tunes.

Safe to Swim, the Brighton band who are quickly catching an increasing amount of attention throughout the country, were up next for their first Brighton gig in a while. The most impressive aspect to Safe to Swim is their vast array of captivating pop songs. From ‘Boyfriend’, to ‘Struggling’, and ‘Pretty in the Morning’, they’ve got an incredible amount of power-pop ballads that are thrilling in their dynamism, intimacy and imposing nature.

Strong Asian Mothers continued the carnival atmosphere with their mixture of trip-hop, pop, and decadent grooves. The London trio really showcased their sense of fun, especially with the appealing chemistry between Amer and Kalim. Of course, having known each other for 15 years they must know each other like the back of their hands, but they’re clearly enjoying playing together and it creates a contagious energy. None more so than with their excellent cover of En Vogue’s ‘Don’t Let Go’ where they challenge themselves to stare into each other’s eyes for the entire song.

It’s with latest single ‘Hard to Find’ where they really showcase their creative pop charisma, however. It’s a hedonistic mixing of hip-hop, pop and electronic sounds that evokes the nu-soul of Jungle or Chet Faker, but it stays grounded to an indie level by an excellent vocal and iconic beat that spawns an exciting level of optimistic energy throughout the crowd.

Of course, they’re a fantastic live unit too, but everything seems so tongue-in-cheek it’s refreshing to see a band not take everything so seriously. Whether they’re cracking jokes, talking through a reverb-heavy mic, or hiding behind a tiny curtain to wait to come back on for a hip-hop sampling finale, everything is about fun for Strong Asian Mothers. Ultimately, this was a showcase of Strong Asian Mother’s capability as a band, but it also made them incredibly likeable and charming.

Liam McMillen