Thursday, 11 November 2010

ITC 2010 @ Band On The Wall, Thursday 14th October

If my impression of In The City is one of numerous musicians clamouring in a small dingy venue for the attentions of a solitary big league A&R who, a) has been bothered to leave their hotel room/bar, and b) actually has any budget for any negotiation of a loan destined to end in some tricky repayments, then at least the Band On The Wall venue itself differs from part of that preconception. As for A&R folk, who knows? But, as hinted at with this preamble, it might be worth aspiring recording artists avoiding the allure of such Sirens when their promised paradise floats so close to the rocks these days.

Having said all that, Anthony H Wilson’s lasting legacy wouldn’t have foreseen the industry’s 21st Century devolution, however the original premise of bringing London-centric major label players up north does now strike as a little outdated given the countless other options available to musicians in this era of technological mores.

Of this year’s fledglings, Now Wave have cherry-picked some of the brighter prospects around, with a running theme of two-guys-and-some-gadgets.

First on are worriedaboutsatan, a duo who’ve been around for a few years now (in fact, it’d be wrong to assume that any of those performing either at official or fringe ITC events have formed only a fortnight prior, but then it depends on whether your definition of ‘new’ is more closely aligned to that stated in the dictionary or by Edith Bowman). Facing each other with laptops primed, this time the set-up is one of a divided stage; as if competing in online Battleships. That is to compare it to the audience-facing Futuresonic appearance in 2007; an early slice of recognition for the pair. Since then worriedaboutsatan have also developed their sound, from post-rocky soundscapes to the more electronica-flecked, pulsing layers of clicks with flickering, flinching waves of guitar-infused echoes.

There are thicker, more muscular bass accompaniments in sections, such as those acting as foundations for the sample of Scuba’s ‘So You Think You’re Special’, but it’s the downtempo elements that resonate longest. Imagery conjured for the finale brings the sound of umpteen lonely drips amplified together for a steady shuffle along an underground rail track; slowly but naturally ceasing to a standstill.

Local two-piece D/R/U/G/S make their mark by shunting the tempo up a few notches courtesy of tectonic thumps and a smattering of ivory twinkles. Never ones to dwell on a beat for too long, the underlays bypass some Caribou and Four Tet’s ‘Plastic People’ in semblance, but always with a more imposing bassline artillery; up there on a par with tech trance bpms.

D/R/U/G/S, although due to appear on at least two other occasions during the ITC gigging window, have a buzz band appeal that attracts a roomful of wristband holders and, consequently, Walls’ audience is a whimper by contrast.

But Walls’ set is far more calculated, controlled and significantly less ADD than that of D/R/U/G/S, and although it’s not worthwhile comparing the two duos too far beyond the obvious personnel similarity, it’s hard to avoid linking the acts with only a short break separating them on the night. Signed to German electronic label Kompakt, Walls can command a certain respect, but also carry a certain expectation. Indeed their eponymous debut and its plaudits add to such anticipation in the diminished crowd, and it takes a while for the mellower tones to settle in with D/R/U/G/S’ rave-sparkers still ringing in your ears. But the slow-building static and cosmic iron lungs are a more fulfilling entity; Walls know where the speed dial can take them, but work themselves up to that level via restrained strata of vibrating pings and squashed minimal squeaks. When you reach the pinnacle it’s all the more rewarding than their predecessors’ musical Tourette’s.

Gaberdine’ exemplifies their steadiness, but there’s also the fuzzy Fuck Buttons-esque wake-up call of ‘Burnt Sienna’, erupting like the yawn of a Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Mount Kimbie are last on and attract some of the floating voter venue surfers back onto BOTW’s recently-pristine, now-blotched carpet. They drop initial beats akin to a low bouncing ball, which progresses as if thrown into a pond to ripple outwards; shivering the floorboards and forcing movement from the intrigued gathering.

This performance is not without its hitches, though. First of all, Kai Campos manages a wry smile at the first instance of unintentional silence, brought about due to guitar connection issues. Mildly chagrin expressions from Campos’s band-mate Dominic Maker illustrate the long pause later on while the aforementioned guitar DI is remedied; a ten-minute lull in proceedings that he jokes will be made available to buy on CD after the show. It’s nice to know they aren’t taking it quite as seriously as those who don’t stay to give them a second chance.

Despite the mishaps, the pair persevere with a modified set including Maker’s looped samples solo and a concluding effects-pedal-less version of ‘Field’ that sees a cleaner guitar join the echoing tongue clacks. The helium-voiced ‘Mayor’ is a standout with its live-specific builds, while the pitch-descending chimes leading into ‘Before I Move Off’ are met with appreciation from more than one animated audience member.

All of which can neither enhance nor damage the growing reputation of a duo who’ve become the namedrop of choice for many a post-dubstep commentator. And, as previously stated, ITC isn’t going to make-or-break your musical adventure, particularly when you’ve already released one of the albums of the year (Crooks & Lovers) via Scuba’s Hotflush record label.

Words: Ian Pennington
Images: Simon Bray

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