There is a particular level of eccentricity that comes hand in hand with a Reptile Youth concert. Their live performances have become somewhat iconic due to the pandemonium created by lead singer Mads Damsgaard Kristiansen’s audacious means of expression.
I was first exposed to the wild and primitive discord of Reptile Youth in Berlin, back in 2011 when the band went by the name Reptile and Retard (which was incredibly fitting for my first impression). Their interpretation of electronic-dance is imbued with a chaotic uproar that is largely produced by Kristiansen’s bizarrely hypnotizing jerky bodily movements. Let’s just say it was a hard performance to forget.
Three years later, Reptile Youth’s performance at Copenhagen’s Pumpehuset, to a notably larger crowd, was an impressive display of their evolution as a band. The chaos that existed the first time I saw them had now become more of a chaotic unison that seemed more cohesive and refined.
Movement has a particular significance in Reptile Youth’s live set. Their sense of dynamism is uncontrived and uninhibited. The music forces you to let go of anything you are holding on to, to feel the intensity in your bones and temporarily vanish from the physical world. Kristiansen’s articulation progresses throughout the set from a level of erratic introversion to a manic release of self-control. The music coincides with this build up of intensity that ultimately climaxes with him stripping down to his bare skin, like a person trapped inside his own body with a desperate need to escape. He hurls himself into the audience to be carried across a sea of hands that hold him with an acceptance and understanding of his animalistic self-expression. Ironically, his erratic and impulsive outbursts of madness are somewhat endearing. He possesses a kind of innocence, a sincerity that makes you feel at ease with his awkwardness.
Debuting their new album Rivers That Run From a Sea That Is Gone that was released March 10, the band transitions between songs of high intensity and others that are more reflective and mature, proving with their new material that they are not aliens, but actually human beings capable of self-reflection. The sound in the new album is noticeably different to that of what they usually deliver. It is much more sentimental and somehow filled with pain, like an acknowledgment of the fact that all love hurts like hell at some point, but it is the experience of that pain that is a vital element in the evolutionary process of humanity.
Hard drumbeats and heavy bass coincide with underlying eerie synth layers and a visual display of flashing strobe lights and rainbow colours. Each individual musical element has a disruptive insanity when honed in to singularly. In the existence of Reptile Youth, the feeling of insanity is certainly a welcomed one. The repetitive sci-fi synth loops are a suffocating bliss that erase the concept of space and time. All that remains is the fulfilling sense of nothingness that compels the body into a state of complete liberation.
The band exudes a contagious sense of rebellion that exists without any unnecessary pretentiousness. Their non-conformist attitude is so alluring that just about every person in the audience is ready to drop down to the ground and hand over their mind, body and soul. The lyrics from the track Structures off their new album, reflect this attitude perfectly: “We’ll leave all the structures, the buildings, the oceans, the hills… our parents, our children our friends… start a new one and see where it ends.”
Despite the reliable continuity of the ruthless displays that have become an identifying feature of Reptile Youth’s live shows; somehow the impact it has on the crowd has not lost its power. In fact, it is almost as though the audience is waiting for it to happen, waiting for the point of eruption, so that they too have an excuse to join in on the path of debauchery. “There’s an idiot in all of us,” go the lyrics in their most popular track Speeddance that they resolutely end the show with. These six words represent the essence of Reptile Youth. This is a band that encourages you to break through internal boundaries and find your inner idiot.