Monday, March 15, 2010

Four Tet, Pantha du Prince & Rocketnumbernine, Bongo Club, Edinburgh, 13th March

Last spring, Andy suggested going to an all day Fence gig, a refreshing, thoroughly enjoyable day I probably wouldn’t have thought to go to myself. This year the same thing has happened again with a gig which he admitted could have been so much noodling, but which in the event was tightly plotted and exhilarating. Wait a bit and go here for his own thoughts. To me, Rocketnumbernine brought to mind Silver Apples for their drums + one-bloke-on-synths configuration, and Can’s ‘Vitamin C’ for the drum-heavy assault. Switching between an acoustic and an electronic kit, the drummer ploughed into his intricate but always rockin’ rhythms, closely followed by the synth and bass lines played / triggered by the band’s other member, who stared intently at a touch screen throughout whilst playing the mini keyboard on the lower rung of his rig. ‘They must be American’, I thought. ‘Brits don’t work this hard at their music’. But no, they are from London, and just look at how sweet their album cover is. Their set never paused for applause, building magnificently from interesting to involving to fuck yeah, and I made a mental note to try to miss fewer support bands.

Next came Pantha du Prince, accompanied by a few jarring signals: a hoody, which must have been insupportably hot under the stage lights, and black tape covering the Apple logo on his laptop. Not that there is anything wrong with obscuring logos, eschewing the corporate, etc., but it sent out a ‘too cool for my own equipment’ kinda vibe, at least to begin with. But then the set started, and he began to move in this strange, stilted way; made me think of Gary Numan and Andy of... well, we’ll see if he puts that in his review, but it was someone even more stilted than Gary Numan. Thoughts of cool vanished with the dancing, the black tape became a good thing, and the music tinkered, then rumbled, then soared. The hoody vanished at some point, to cheers (what is this, Top of the Pops?). Again the rhythm was paramount, along with the basslines suckered on to its floor. I’m scrabbling around for other things to say about how great this set was, but it has blown away on the wind, and perhaps that it how it should be.

Four Tet were another one-man-and-his-laptop job, which I did know, but the pictures on their site of the luminous hats had had me hoping for some kind of spectacle. But it was just Kieran Hebden in a t-shirt with a table full of computers (two laptops, actually) and assorted mixers / controllers. Which he handled with an easy and intense grace, floating above his toys like a hawk above a valley, spinning out snippets into wrong-footing reversals and elongated batterings. There was nothing from Rounds, the only album of his I know at all well, but every so often something recognisable bobbed up and the crowd whooped. As to what Hebden was actually doing up there... this is the problem with laptop performance, isn’t it? With Rocketnumbernine, you could see, roughly, which action was causing which noise, but the other two acts didn’t allow that. I suppose a back projected screen of Ableton or whatever would be a bit rubbish, but I remember that kind of thing working for Björk when she used a Reactable. Still, you could see Hebden’s glee at dropping in at last the beat you didn’t know you’d been been holding your breath for, full and low-end, the snare just barely different from the bass drum sound.

Arriving back late, we walked past a club by the bus station. Thump thump thump thump, it went, through the wall. A pause, and the same blaring synth plus faux-delirious vocal break for the same number of bars as always before the thumps began again. ‘That’s what dance music really sounds like,’ I said. When it doesn’t, it can be so great.


Update: Andy’s review is up, and ten times better than the above.

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