Review and Photos by Stephen Harvey (a.k.a. DJ Fresh)
Mauskramp are a three piece outfit from Stafford, who have been one of the leading lights in bringing live music to the Stafford night life. A distinct lack of suitable venues in the town has been the principle obstacle obscuring their way in their homeland, but this was never going to hold them back.
They did what the Hip Hop community had already done in nearby Stoke on Trent some time ago, and they embarked on building their own night and scene from scratch. This was no small project, but to their credit they seemed to have achieved what they had set out to do, if this particular night was the end product of their labours.
The Bird In Hand may on first glance seem unsuitable, but with the inclusion of projectors and lighting in the back room, it was soon transformed into a venue more than capable of hosting the much talked about Activerb night. The sound engineer must also take some credit for creating the perfect sound and levels for the job at hand, and to his credit he achieved fantastic results from a nightmare of acoustics, with a low ceiling and exits at each end.
There was a quite sizeable and obviously well musically educated audience assembled and ready to be entertained, which included Matt Lee from Radio Stoke Subculture and Kelvin Andrews from the Soul Mekaniks, so it was obvious from the start that this band was something special from the offset.
Mauskramp have a sound that cannot easily be pigeonholed into genres, but the electronika scene would welcome this imput on any level. A collaboration of rock guitar riffs and vintage synths blend together with vocals surrounded in effects and charisma. The sound created resembles no other artist, but brings togther influences that are clearly understated to perfection.
Frontman Richard Underwood sauntered on stage smartly dressed in suit and sensible shoes, and proceeded to lure the audience into a false sense of security before bombarding them with huge industrial beats and noise that hypnotised and drew them into his dark world. The drum tracks are simple, but adequate enough to keep the dance music fan more than contented, while the vocals and electric guitars are distinct and interesting enough to keep the rock fan involved for the whole set. The rhythms created by John Matley left you feeling as if there was someone hiding in the background with the contents of a well stocked music shop at his disposal, and the new band member Dave Ahmid added that little bit more width to the sound, which I didn’t realise it lacked until I heard again the CD the band had sent me some months earlier, minus his injection. It seems Richie and John made a wise decision when they welcomed a new member to the band, and hopefully this will show in future recordings and not just their live show.
Tracks like 'Standing Out” with its vocals smothered in effects and megaphone sound, and the anthemic 'Active Speaker' shows the quality of the band, and they are surely headed for some big things in the future.
I would urge anyone reading this article to go and check out the sounds of Mauskramp with the urgency it deserves, and to hear first hand what is very hard to describe on paper, no matter how intelligent the metaphors and adjectives used sound.
Photos: L - R John Matley, Richard Underwood, Dave Ahmid.