Chilean psych-rock duo The Holydrug Couple have slowly been cultivating their well-earned reputation as one of Santiago’s most unique exports. In 2015, shortly after signing to their Brooklyn label, Sacred Bones, the duo released their acclaimed album “Moonlust”, highlighting the prospering scene coming out of Chile’s capital.Their most recent album, “Hyper Super Mega”, released earlier this year, displayed the same weighty yet fluid composition that seeped through their previous efforts in ethereal constancy. However, its subtle nod to a glam rock aesthetic and its progressive instrumentation really differentiated it from previous releases.
The fifth leg of their European tour brought the pair to the Lexington in Islington. I had anticipated to witness the lightness of touch that I had seen in their gorgeously produced discography but the reality was far from that.
Ripping onto the stage accompanied by an additional member, the group scorched through their set list with an uncouth energy that set their work in an entirely new context. Wailing vocals coated the wall of luscious tone emanating from Ives Sepúlveda (lead singer, guitar and keys) whilst Manuel Parra (drums) kept the group locked in but still able to expand on their ideas in an effortless way. Texturally, the vocals helped tie the mixture of different tones together, Sepúlveda’s tone seemed largely obscured by the seemingly numerous filters and effects processing his voice. I appreciated the raw delivery to such an extent that the lyricism, or lack thereof, didn’t seem to bother me, as it added to the overall aesthetic in a unique way.
Whilst dreary moans are a common criticism for a band existing in the genre that intersects both psych rock and dream pop, it wasn’t an issue on any of the duo’s records, so it was slightly surprising to hear these sounds continue throughout the set. This was not helped by Parra’s homogenous drumming. His playing, despite being often laced with priceless interplay between him and Sepúlveda, seemed to lack any real presence. However it did make way for the Sepúlveda’s innovative and versatile performance. Switching between guitar, bass and his multifaceted KORG synthesiser, the Chilean frontman’s manoeuvring showed a technical mastery that really struck me. His presence was unmistakably felt by the audience. He showed himself to possess the qualities of a fantastic and passionate innovator.
The show truly exposed a side of the band that would have been missed on their albums and EPs. By ending the set with their breakout single, ‘If I could find you (eternity)’, the group added an energy that turned their sound on its head and showed that we are yet to see all that the duo of Sepúlveda and Parra have to offer.