+ LFO @
The Astoria, London, 9 December 2008
There are surely few subgenres as patronisingly or pretentiously
named as Intelligent Dance Music or IDM. Do you need to
prove your IQ before you’re deemed worthy of listening
thing that must be said is that artists often lumped together
beneath this ill-fitting banner are those who are subverting
or simply ignoring the 4/4 rules and twisting electronics
to create their own unique sound. Tonight’s main draw,
Squarepusher, is one such artist.
up the crowd beforehand though is Mark Bell, AKA the remaining
half of veteran techno duo LFO. The sounds
he unleashes are angry and banging as harsh electronic beats
writhe and squirm out of the speakers. At times it may sound
like someone has stuck a couple of bricks and a synth in
a washing machine and it’s certainly not for the faint
hearted but it’s also truly hypnotic. Bell then airs
eponymous anthem LFO, the defining moment of the early nineties
Sheffield bleep scene. It still sounds amazing and, in spite
of old Radio One DJ Steve Wright once calling it the worst
record he’d ever heard, stands as one of the truly
timeless electronic tracks.
whirring techno apocalypse is over soon after and the man
behind Squarepusher, virtuoso bass player
Tom Jenkinson, emerges onto the stage to an enormous cheer.
Kicking off with Star Time 2 from new album Just A Souvenir,
choppy beats and jazzy organ are overlaid with Jenkinson’s
dextrous slap bass.
unclear to start with just how live the set is with Jenkinson
seemingly just accompanying a fixed laptop backing track,
but the moshing crowd don’t seem to care. There’s
an element of fragility to any melodies as they dart underneath
the bruising breaks in danger of being crushed until one
melody bursts through on its own, beautiful in its isolation.
live drummer then comes to the stage for the chipper and
mildly ridiculous vocodered new track, A New Woman. It’s
the next track that showcases his amazing machinegun drum
skills though, with uplifting chords helping to form a crazed,
jazz-like workout. Jenkinson’s music seems formlessly
freestyle at times but more often the hyperactive layers
of sound gel together to create something that not only
makes sense but also has the ability to mesmerise.
a multitude of effects pedals allowing Jenkinson to create
huge ambient sounds and textures, giant screens display
graphics that react to every sound spurting out of the speakers.
He ends the set with a big bass jam, which is both technically
and musically exhilarating.
encore involves stomping, tribal acid techno and old skool
rave before another extended improvised solo proves Jenkinson
is not simply playing along to a pre-sequenced backing track.
The swansong comes in the form of old favourite, Vic Acid,
with its soaring, roaring chords and epileptically drummed
confirmed tonight that he is undoubtedly an exceptional
talent, a true one off, but his music is too inaccessible
to garner widespread appeal far from his current, intensely
passionate fanbase. You get the feeling that this is exactly
how he likes it though.
tonight’s performance left the audience dumbstruck
with elements of Squarepusher’s set containing a whiff
of twisted genius about them. If this truly is IDM Tom Jenkinson
must have at least a Masters in it.
- Ian Roullier, 12/2008