Coronet Theatre, Elephant & Castle, London
Friday 30th April, 2004
By Sheikh Ahmed
Quite a mammoth line-up for Four tet's own mini festival, the velveteen interior of the coronet theatre proving to be quite a grand platform for all the artists on offer. arriving late, only to find out that everything is running an hour over its schedule. we are greeted by the fractured onslaught of icarus; refining their near-perfect demonstration of max patches. it's a sonic barrage; rhythmic shrapnel flying out at high velocity against swells of sub-bass and tensioned strings. visually bereft, save for the motionless stare of ollie and sam at their powerbooks. it's an exemplary performance; their lack of physical movements masking the complexity of their unique brand of brain-tingling techno. after wallowing in funk nostalgia in good company with the soul jazz soundsystem, it was time for mr. christian fennesz. two things from the outset; firstly, his set was ace, secondly; it was way too short. accompanied by jon wozencroft's rather still visuals, the lanky austrian coaxed his trademark phases of dissolved guitar and richly layered orchestra out from his powerbook. as hypnotic and gorgeous as his records. trying to keep interest sustained during animal collective proved difficult and i sought solace with the soul jazz soundsystem once more. only to attend the rigid dynamics of dabrye. resplendent in a rather fetching leather jacket, the dimunitive american twitches and jerks whilst commandeering his bizarre home computer. his trademark flat hip-hop sound; all base-level buzzsaws, untreated frequencies and dampened beats, sounded good. hurriedly running through the best moments off 'one/three' and 'instrumntl' kept the masses entertained. some of whom looked utterly stupid trying to bust street-level hip-hop moves. manitoba were so uninteresting that i have somehow managed to erase them from my memory, paving the way for headliner four tet. in short, keiran hebden makes great music, but cannot deliver it live to save his life. he opts to take his compositions and put them through the laptop blender. skip-p-p-ping, chopping and generally fucking things up until any shred of beauty from the original is consigned to the dsp bin. i'd rather he just do a straight playback, such is the anoyance of his interaction. by the time matthew dear is on, the masses don't seem to be in the mood for straight up 4/4. which is a shame, as he looks the part. preppy suits, making jerky hand movements, barely touching his laptop, as if it was on fire or something. eeking out lithe, thudding beats, wafer thin slices of crisp melodies and funky mutating basslines. house. techno. enjoyable to the max, it was the rave ending that tonight needed.
My good sir the editor of live review from Absorb publications London, please find here ensquared a faithful account of my evening on the great river Thames. Thank you so much sir for this most enrichful experience.
"Roll up jovial mariners & seamen of all denominations!"
Insinuates Jack Dangers, our most wonderful host for this evening of cultural activities in the great city of London, with a tip of the head and a smile of the face. He is the chief administrant of Wheels Instead of Hooves, just another group of Anglicans with dedication to equestrian ("like horse, not S&M" they tell me) cultures in this very fine capital. We the people of this great nation, all 300 hundred of us, including Lithuanian Lina, the Deshi, myself & Phil the pirate, are rounded up onto a small jetty near the most wonderful Tower of London - a large grey temple of stone, ensquared by spotlight lawns that glow alien green in the early evening sundown. This tower, so I harvest from the tourist information point, used to be an expiration place for the good Christians to maul bad Christians, all on immaculately conceived grass. They have big screens hanging behind a sheet of glass, back-playing reconstructions of public maulery. Those Christians were a rabid species, but somehow always found time to tend to their lawns. We Indians can learn from that.
I am like a tourist on this jetty, next to Lithuanian Lina and the Deshi; possibly because I am, as Kushwant Singh would say. Ah Kushwant, ever the joker with the funnies. As we are shuffled on board the vessel in exchange for some very great British pounds, the PA feeds itself back into its existence - it's the captain of our vessel!
"I will say only this once and once only this. If you administer illegal substances, I am powerless unless I see them with my own eyes. That is all."
Let the ride of joy begin! We float slowly eastwards on the great river Thames, towards Norway and Russia and most profoundly of all, towards mother Asia, where we can unload our wares and receive multifarious spices in return. A man called Grant from a place called Rephlex plays the wonderfully retrocedent Techno music from behind a glowing fruit like an apple. I hear someone say "Four four" and grin, thumbs up. I know this thumbs up from the bottles back in Delhi, the ones you call Coke, so I give a thumbs up back - all is most OK man! I turn to Lithuanian Lina and say...
"What is the four four? What is the magic apple with the sound? Is this a christian apple of adam?"
Lithuanian Lina grins back. Some are less fortunate than me in their command of the Anglo languages, and Lina has no words for me. She lives in a shanty with Belorussians, a squat the Deshi calls it, and has no hot water or electricity. Who would want to live like this in the great western Europe, in a shanty? Sometimes I shake my head for Lithuanian Lina. the same for Deshi, pray what kind of great nation is this that lives underwater like Bangladesh? No, it cannot be, I shake my head & pray for them. Finally she says...
"We only have drum & bass in Lithuania, but I like this more."
I intuit this to be a fine example of the grammar of the great Anglo idiom and nod vigorously my approval. Just then a boy throws a fruit seed into her empty plastic drinking glass, from eight cow-strides away. We nod vigorously our approval, this time with a coming together of the hands for added effect. Then, to our most great astonishment the boy commands the feat once more! We are astonished with this boy, the champion of the basketball seeds, and we are initiated to make his acquaintance. "My name is Ceephax", says the boy. Deshi says he is the Ceephax Acid Crew, but, upon consulting my Anglo-Hindu pocket Oxford I find this to be mistaken, for how can a crew be but one man? Does he represent the crew of this vessel? No good Anglican sir will illuminate this point as I roam around the lower decking.
Here there is a pirate with a Nike shirt that shines like panned gold in the light. I know this Nike - yes, just do it! Ah these westerners, what funnies. Phil the pirate is costumed with a telescopic camera and pirate hat and patched eye. But he has no wooden leg, the fraudulence. Then a man Deshi says is Aphex Twin that is actually but one man. Perhaps his twin is most estranged or malevolent, I do not know, but I am once again indeed perplexed. And this dancing Ed DMX with the tail of a horse on his head, what strangeness to be named after a great western bicycle no?
I hop to the upper deck and sit a chair up to the railing. There are most wonderful sights floating near the great Thames. There is a dome like half a hollow Puri, upturned on the ground, and a huge barrier for floods (perhaps the Desh needs one, I suggest to Deshi), and warehouses with big advertisements for Polish beverage beer lit up so very brightly in the dark. It is a most enchanting evening and on the horizon I smell Asia's resplendent beauty beckoning us. Later, back to the boom-boom sound once more - all night this boom-boom. A man called Luke Vibert is proclaiming love for Acid! What most great culture that can proclaim love from one man to another. I look for Mr. Acid-Crew but do not see him, and my heart is assured he loves Luke too, because everyone is smiling here, all the styleful people, Among them a great love is present in the vessel. I think the western males are ready to start holding hands in harmony on the streets of the very great London; this and many other things they will be teached by the Indians. The time is right - we Indians will learn you!
The vessel is very fine indeed with the Vibert boom. I am loving even Deshi, although he is arse-bandit. Haha! Arse bandit, this is a word he teached me, and now he suffers the curse of it. After Vibert I see Mr. Acid-Crew with the magic Apple and the sounds, oh those sounds that it is. I could not describe the beauty of the Mr. Acid-Crew sounds with earthly things. I can only compare to my first encounter with the videogame in Berinder Singh's house so many years ago, with the Pacman munch video of the colours and the sounds and oh, such beauty to rival the most beautifully embroidered silk.
I will return to Kanpur with Ceephax sounds ping-pong in my head. I will tell them all of this good sir and of the great Thames and the tower and many more things. Thank you sir live editor of Absorb publications London, for this most enrichful experience in the equestrian culture of the very great capital of your nation.
Your most humble servant.