Tet + Manitoba + Dabyre + Animal Collective + Explosions
In The Sky @
The Coronet, London, 30 April 2004
(now defunct), April 2004
a look at the latest adverts for his last album and you
could be forgiven for thinking that Four Tet's Kieran Hebden
is singlehandedly in charge of prolonging the life of the
somewhat creatively exhausted dance music scene. But you
can't really argue with his pedigree when you see the inclusion
of 'Rounds' on a multitude of 'best of 2003' lists and everyone
from the NME to The Times keen to sing his praises. So tonight
is a chance for folktronica's biggest (and only?!) star
to share some of the attention with a line-up handpicked
by Hebden himself.
onus of the night is on the experimental and Explosions
In The Sky seem to be keeping things far too fluffy,
light and easy on the ear to start with. Their tuneful prog-rock
leanings create a calm, sweet and melodic atmosphere until
they unleash a frenzied session of fret-bashing midway through
their set to liven up the audience. Sounding at times like
Coldplay would if they had more fire in their bellies, they
flit from laid back and light to fiery and intense in the
blink of an eyelid.
Explosions' set contains touches of Pink Floyd throughout
but it's not anywhere near as overtly tripped-out, whacked
out and cabbaged as next act the Animal Collective's
like Kevin and Perry and lolling around the stage like two
stoned teenagers, they appear to be tripping out in their
own monochord heaven. Their collection of hazy, formless
musical meanderings cry for some sense of direction, both
visually and musically they do very little to excite the
senses and it seems like time for bed.
then - all of a sudden - out goes the shoegazing and they
seem to have miraculously woken up! We now see how they
thought of the name the Animal Collective as a longer haired
human version of the muppet (going by the name of Panda
Bear) appears on the drums. It seems the New Yorkers realise
it takes more than two chords and a few effects pedals to
make an entertaining gig and in come tribal, crashing drums
giving proceedings an enjoyable Adam And The Ants flavour.
You half expect them to start screeching 'Aaaagh!', 'Errrrgh!'
as they make the transition from navel gazing mediocrity
into crazy warbled smashpop. Much more enjoyable.
up is Dabyre who treats us to some leftfield,
Warp-type tunesmithery with its difficult stuttering beats
and fractured melodies. Highlights of the set include one
track that features rock gig style handclapping and fat
keyboard stabs with Prince-like vocal snippets flirting
with the mix. Shuffling, abrasive hip hop rhythms and rib-rattling
bass combine with the occasional twinkling melody to produce
music that, while never truly heading anywhere, contains
enough ideas to keep the crowd largely happy until Canadian
act Manitoba make their way on to the stage.
exactly who does what in the Manitoba setup is anyone's
guess as we are confronted with two drummers, one of which
also has an acoustic guitar on his lap, the other a keyboard
perched on his knees with Dan Snaith fronting the line up
on guitar and lead vocals. In spite of their initial attempts
to look like a one man band convention they construct superbly
grandiose arrangements that are both epic and uplifting.
to entertain through visuals as well as through their jangling,
rocked out tunes, they indulge in dressing up like the three
bears for a while and the screen above them shows a bizarrely
amusing puppet show featuring characters that look like
a cross between Bez from the Mondays and Toad of Toad Hall.
stimulation obviously isn't as highly rated by the main
act of the night, however, as Four Tet
takes to the stage. Just one man fiddling with two laptops
hardly serves to create a visual spectacular so the focus
is placed entirely upon the music.
is a fine collection of fragile melodies, gentle hooks and,
at times, calm introspection underpinned with fractured
jazz-like beats and difficult jittering, jumping rhythms.
But it seems that during this live performance the former
falls victim to the latter and ugly discordance is often
favoured over harmony and tunefulness with only occasional
sweet interludes bringing some order to the chaos.
basslines, crashing, stumbling beats and tempo jiggerypokery
all make for a somewhat demanding listen but the crowd seem
to lap up every sonic twist and turn Mr Hebden throws at
them. It's always refreshing when an artist takes their
music and tries to creates something new live, breathing
new life into their material but it seems tonight's focus
on the experimental has served largely to dull and blunt
Four Tet's greatest strength: Being able to tease a beautiful
tune out of a disorganised, chaotic backdrop while ensuring
it avoids being too saccharine.
deserving of the praise heaped upon him, you can't help
but feel the fine balance between nastiness and niceness
his music usually maintains has tipped slightly too far
in one direction tonight. But it wouldn't be experimental
if it wasn't challenging now, would it?
- Ian Roullier, 03/2004