[rumori] PLU, ECC, Wobbly (and pals) in London

From: Bob Boster (meridiesATdetritus.net)
Date: Sun May 05 2002 - 00:29:29 PDT


Not enough time to do this show justice, but since I enjoyed the Tonic
review so well I feel compelled to at least give it a brief overview.

Last night the Ether (non-dance electronic music) festival of the South
Bank Centre/Royal Festival Hall hosted our stalwarts in the high late
modernist style of the Purcell Room. About 200 people were there, possibly
a few more. Certainly a crowd like this I've never seen at an event in
'our' musical community's dedicated honor. The evening was headed

Wobbly opened. Jon's set was a rolling, shifting affair with his trademark
dense-pack assault as the primary material, sometimes integrating some
rhythmic sections, and a couple times dropping away to more atmospheric
sections. Travelling light (no keyboard) meant Jon didn't get into one of
his classic 'song' things, which was a shame for people who have never seen
him before, but the set was so action packed, I'm sure no one else ever
missed it.

Some Wild Why fragments here and there, but nothing like the full-on
barrage. Some attempts at trainspotting worked for some audience members,
but as Jon has gone more and more 'Plexure-ish' it doesn't really give
people the time to actually pin it down before he moves on. It's more like
the flavor comes into your mouth and then the next bite goes down before
you can name that spice.

Guy next to us was a complete stranger and he was totally on top of
everything at each moment, rolling back and forth with the joy of the
chaotic stream and occasionally hooting or yelling when a real strong
moment hit. It was a pleasure to take that in. Much of the crowd seemed
really along for the ride on this somewhat difficult material, but there
were the typical 3 or 4 who got overwhelmed after a few minutes and fled.

Next up ECC, my first live experience. Mark is actually talking and doing
some schtick as part of the set, which was a good thing (as Jon was
mute). His white coveralls, bright 'mad scientist' hair, and thimble
controllers made a great visual image. I'm sure his deep voice and
authoritative American accent worked for the crowd also. After a video
opener, he did a somewhat thematic set of thimbletron stuff that worked for
the crowd and really entertained.

One thing that worked for me personally was the fact that he sent his
laptop graphics up to the video projection so people could see the
waveforms (and sometimes make out the file names) of the bits being
triggered by the thimble action. This worked to forward the technology
into people's minds without undercutting it by being too recognizable
(assume that was custom stuff you wrote Mark...).

Anyway, the dramatic goofiness of the set, the completeness of the whole
vision, and the entertaining aspect of the pieces really all worked
well. I expected some sniggering at 'American goofiness' but didn't
overhear any.

Matt Wand played next. His placement in the set was perfect because he had
a physical 'wired' quality that bound him to Mark, but what came out of it
was totally abstract. Matt played looping sequences of pretty much pure
tones from 2 Gameboys. The outcome was a slamming, largely rhythmic but
non-dancey wash of this repetitive but always shifting crunchy noise. Nice
and relatively minimal processing (although I couldn't tell what part of
the looping process was the gameboys and which was processing until

Matt really pushed the show out into to new space by not having any
'samples' but the gameboy theme worked with the overview, and the set
really rocked. Sort of like riding in a shopping cart down from the
continental divide...it never stopped rolling, but the quality of the
bumpiness changed every couple seconds.

We were then lucky enough to enter the wild and wonderful world of Felix
Kubin. Felix puts an incredibly lovable thing together and it works on
sheer innocence and the commitment of his dramatic vision. Arriving in
full glam spaceman regalia, Felix came out and promptly announced that he's
not really a plunderphonic artist and proceeded to play a joyful set of
SONGS, touching a style list from Trio to digital hardcore to
Kraftwerk. To site himself somewhat in the style of the evening, he did a
remix of a PLU cut, which worked.

Some songs had vocals. Much of the set had speech in the interstices,
which was nice. There was a joyful feel about the whole thing, and somehow
the kitsch gave it another link to the rest of the program, which was
enough for it to be bound together successfully. His video had a great
quality to it, also linking him to PLU's set.

Someone needs to book Felix on a tour into SF and figure out how to
properly promote it so all the possible vectors that would appreciate it
show up...amazing live set.

Onto PLU, the headliner. Vicki did a unified set tied up with video. The
meshing of the video elements in a style that totally fit into the
aesthetic of Vicki's musical work is a great thing to take in. I'm not
sure that someone who comes to it without a background in the recorded work
would have this experience with it, but that was really true for me. I saw
her do some stuff with video in Chicago a couple years back, but it didn't
hold together like this (of course I also had a terrible site line in
Chicago and this projection was glorious). Her aesthetic holds true for
the music and the video in the same way, and makes a really powerful

Another thing that worked for me about this set was that somehow really
disparate themes and elements ended up holding together in some kind of
shattered, surreal narrative. Many of us utilize this effect in audio, by
returning to material repeatedly during a performance which seems to
somehow bind things together. In this case, Vicki has done the same thing
in video, and the quality ends up holding a very scattered set of pieces
together into something with a completely coherent aspect. Really
interesting, and entertaining. And the sense of following the 'story'
added something new to the evening, keeping people plugged in even after 4
really strong sets before this one. The migration over to a video-centric
presentation also gave the audience some new quality to hang onto.

Vicki was received triumphantly (all acts were, but I think the sense of
Vicki as the 'vision' behind the line-up was apparent, and that added to
her approval as well). Hats off to her, because this was a really
significant context and a really great show to fit in it. Hopefully more
of these things can be leveraged off this one (not least of which because
I'd like a chance to grab an audience like that myself) and help to move
London to the forefront of cultural capitals for this kind of
music. Vicki's really got the ball rolling and hopefully I can help push.

Anyway, that's all the data that comes to mind (after 5 hours sleep). Off
to Paris and Munich (just missing NY and I'd have the M People in my head
all weekend).

Any questions?

Your faithful correspondent,


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