Posted on Aug 15th 2009 11:44 pm
A stone throw from the sprawling Olympic building site, Dalston is the home of Café Oto, the venue chosen by Icarus for the London leg of their current tour, coinciding with the release of Sylt Remixes. For the event, they had invited experimental laptop sound artist Yee-King, electronic story tellers Isan and the Glass Shrimp DJ to complete the bill.
First on was Yee-King, sat on the left of the stage area with a laptop and a drum machine in front of him and the fruit of his work projected behind him, showing his live editing in real time. And what he works with is no nicey-nicey cool and shiny Apple user interface but utterly geeky DOS programming. Anyone who has ever worked on an AS400 would have been familiar with the standard green text on black screen. Away from the technological aspect, Yee-King’s set ranged from the wonderfully poetic to the corrosive, often switching from one to the other in an instant. The first half of his set was ridden with bubbly electronic twitches sounding like R2D2 having a whale of a time in some exotic whore hose, but later, the tone became much more subtle and delicate as Yee-King assembled some music box-like sounds into a gentle sonic web, before crushing it all in what could only have sounded like the same R2D2 having a major crash at the end of the night.
Next to take the stage was one half of Isan, and the change of mood could hardly have been greater. Robin Saville deployed the band’s trademark melodic electronica, occasionally pushing into smooth disco-like electro, at times almost invoking, very successfully, the spirit of Giorgio Moroder, tainted with Isan’s own primary coloured vision. Over the years, the band have distilled deceptively simple and innocent electro pop gems which have at times been dismissed by many as being too bubble gum and straightforward, when they actually are a medium for creating some of the most evocative and dreamy electronic music around. This perhaps accounted for a few seats becoming free after Yee-King pretty full house set, much to the delight of those who had remained to enjoy Saville’s flawless set.
Last on were Sam Britton and Ollie Bown, aka Icarus, celebrating the release of their excellent recent Sylt Remixes album with a set of entirely new material, with stunning visuals by Martin Hampton. On record, the pair often create elegant electro-acoustic pieces centred around extremely airy and light sound structures. This set however presented a much harsher side, relying on complex beat patterns, dense soundscapes and VOLUME. From the very first beat, everything was pushed up into the red, making this as much a physical experience as it was a cerebral one.
On the screen behind insects squirmed and wriggled in close-up, and there was a definite sense of being at some sort of insectoid warehouse rave, full of multi-segmented rhythms and spindly, thrashing beats. The most enduring – and perhaps apt – image from this spectacular piece of film was of one alien, semi-transparent creature grimly clinging on while being buffeted by winds amongst an ever-shifting black grass lattice. As the layers of battering rhythms and complexities piled up around me, I had to grip the edge of my seat to avoid falling off, feeling beaten up and befuddled. The end of the piece featured some more recognisable instruments, albeit in strange new forms. The sound of a trumpet, sliced into pieces, shuffled and rearranged, hinted at the improvisational directions Bown and Britton have been heading in with their Not Applicable venture – ever onwards into uncharted and difficult terrains. Tonight may have been a momentary glance back over their respective shoulders, but they still sounded years ahead of the rest of us.
In between live sets, the Glass Shrimp DJ, who can regularly be heard on Resonance FM, provided an excellent selection of experimental works woven into seventies Afro and spiritual jazz and ethic music. Each of the three live performances proved extremely different for the others, giving this event a particularly wide ranging scope by bringing a different angle of electronic music, helping to build a surprisingly comprehensive picture of a genre that never cease to develop.
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