Tuesday, 6 March 2012

The Electronic Exchange @ Kraak Gallery, Friday 10th February 2012

It’s a homecoming of sorts for a band whose lifespan has predominantly been lived on the internet.

When the second date of this tour creaks into life, this enlarged incarnation of The Electronic Exchange has completed one live show, three rehearsals and plenty of emails.

I say ‘creaks into life’ because there’s a downtempo, static feel to the opening stages. Dayse & Aver are painting their lyrical imagery in ‘Human Zoo’, backed by beats merchant Omas in a reserved start for an initially passive audience with the soundsystem noticeably quietened and restrained. But static is the TNC offshoot’s style; facing each other, mics poised, lyrics fired to and fro. Their movement is cerebral; their skill is in satire, dissecting the world in which they live with references from dystopian sci-fi to the gritty realism of this CCTV state, via technological age epigrams by Moondog. ‘Dark Matter’ and ‘No Exit’ are highlights with their discordant funk and jazzy refrains scratched and skewed by Omas.

A string section in a trip hop band can hardly be described as pioneering these days, but one assembled, instructed and practised online is perhaps with traits less widespread.

Pained grievances of “it just don’t fit right” lifted from the recent sophomore EP are misled; the mood created with the help of additional live instruments from drums to violin and cello fits perfectly. The strings in particular render a body of sound dismembered with the tension builds of a horror flick, acting as the ideal companion to the echoing eeriness of ‘Noises’ from the self-titled debut EP.

The original duo is enhanced by the safety in numbers. Najia Bagi’s soulful vocal is aptly matched to the classical and glitch trip hop hybrid on show, while Tullis Rennie’s processed beats and samples synonymous with his output via Concrete Moniker are aided by extra pieces to the puzzle. Bagi in particular, who also sings with The Beats & Pieces Big Band, To Sophia, The Ground and solo, has no problem adapting her voice to the new scenario.

There’s opportunity for ambient interludes and instrumental flexibility, as sticksman Dave Johnson is only too happy to exemplify in frenzied fashion. His disregard for the prepared template is more applauded than derided, even if Bagi is forced to wait for her cue a little longer than expected. The bar-raising ‘Country Murder’ produces one of those moments you tend to remember. Its thickened sound builds and climbs atop a lofty summit before diving head-first into a huge drop; ripping open sonic cortices in the thundering rapids of drum and bass below.

Words: Ian Pennington
Photos: Anna Kafkalias

Najia Bagi of The Electronic Exchange will perform some songs with electronic musician Neko Neko (who remixed two songs for The Electronic Exchange’s Second Shift EP) at Dulcimer in Chorlton on Thursday 8th March along with other artists on the My First Moth label. Later this month, on Thursday 22nd March, Dayse & Aver will headline a gig at Antwerp Mansion in Rusholme to perform a new full live band show, supported by The Mothership Connection and Krankit.

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