Live Review: bdrmm at Scala, 20/11/23

The next generation of shoegaze rolls through London's Scala as bdrmm prove themselves yet again

The difficult second album. It can make or break a budding band, especially one quite as hyped as Hull-formed shoegaze four-piece, bdrmm. Their warmly-received 2020 debut album mirrored the collective isolation everyone was mired in at the time, and it genuinely resonated. With sophomore I Don’t Know, they went bolder, unshackling themselves from expectation. It was a gamble that’s evidently paid off, given the packed-out crowd at London’s Scala.

“Yes boys!” some fella in the crowd hollered, quite literally as soon as the band carefully entered the stage and the venue’s PA went down a notch, dutifully reaffirming his favourite new band with the first given chance. “I love you Jordan,” screamed another. Either bdrmm’s four band members were nonchalantly brushing off their vocal fandom, there were nerves about the occasion, or they were just in shock of the kind of feverish awe they’ve courted in a short space of time. 

bdrmm’s opening salvo in England’s capital reiterated their statement as an evolving quartet, cascading from the sparkling, electronic-indebted ‘Alps’ to ‘Be Careful’, into ‘It’s Just A Bit Of Blood’, the first three tracks from I Don’t Know. Spinning the likes of Massive Attack and Boards Of Canada through the PA as a pre-show scene-setter, their intro seamlessly transitioned from the new kinds of music they’ve absorbed into their own. 

Shoegaze is perennially in vogue, on both sides of the pond, yet bdrmm seem to be pursuing a more experimental trajectory. That’s likely because their ambitions were facilitated by a move to Mogwai’s label Rock Action for the 2023 follow-up album, but the sonic gear-shift and maturing production has sharpened the focus on singer Ryan Smith. 

Smith’s vulnerable lyricism – which draws on personal struggles with his mental health and addiction – is no longer shielded by the hazy, swirling feedback of their debut album. Here, there’s a chilling definition to his delivery, which despite the adoration of the 800-strong audience, there’s some visible discomfort with. Bassist Jordan Smith, his brother, acts as his support system, chipping in with vocal duties with an animated and engaging performance throughout.

They didn’t veer completely away from Bedroom, their celebrated debut however. The tornado of running basslines of ‘Gush’ and ‘Push / Pull’ elevated heart rates, whilst ‘Forget The Credits’ sounds like the result of a diet of Deerhunter’s excellent 2010 album Halcyon Digest. Whilst Bedroom might be more instinctual, the album’s energy is undeniable. Likely why the woozy, melancholic waltz of ‘Happy’ – one straight out of the DIIV/Beach Fossils playbook – received a rapturous response.

Despite scant crowd interaction throughout, Ryan Smith did take a moment to thank everyone inside the venue. “I don’t have any words for how important this show is. Thanks for buying a ticket. Enough of that bullsh*t, let’s do another one,” bursting his own shy, insular bubble just in time for the towering post-rock-ish crescendo. Emboldened by the outpouring of affection for their recent album, and sold out tour, the four-piece were evidently keen to extend the 90-minute gig as long as possible. There’s more acclaim coming their way. The question just remains whether or not they’re ready for it.

Bdrmm are playing Belfast and Dublin in November, before returning to UK stages in March and May 2024. Find tickets here.