Monday, November 07, 2005

That's Entertainment!

Jamie Lidell – The Scala, London 3/11/05

Yet again, the Scala was packed out for another Eat Your Own Ears promoted extravaganza, this time celebrating the brightest lights of the current Warp roster. Whilst Richard D James continues to abrogate any responsibility to his audience (packaging his only new material in impossibly expensive collectors’ editions), the young pretenders may be about to steal his electro crown.

First up was French maverick Jackson, whose ‘Smash’ album is arguably the most thrilling electronica album of 2005. His set tonight is uncompromising, furious and pulverising, alternating between glitchy, arrhythmic stutterings and dramatically powerful bass hits. It’s all a little disorientating but undoubtedly effective when he develops an idea into something that reaches the feet as well as the guts.

Next up was a very peculiar Japanese duo. I’m still not sure exactly who they were. If anyone can enlighten me, please leave a comment or email me! They positioned themselves shamelessly on that fine line between experimental genius and complete piffle, although more often than not I fear they crossed over into the latter. The audience were clearly divided, some nodding appreciatively and attempting to dance, whilst others booed ferociously. They consisted of a sampling device deployed to create swathes of sound, a remarkably unconventional drummer and a singer who screeched what sounded mostly like nonsense over the top of it all. Sometimes they generated ideas that sounded promising (particularly in their complex polyrhythmic figures), but all the elements always competed for attention. Frequently, the drummer seemed to be playing against the samples rather than with them and all the yelping and screeching became irritating after a while, a million miles from the cleverly choreographed vocal interplay of Animal Collective.

Jamie Lidell was frankly a revelation. Beginning his set on stage alone, he used live sampling and mixing to manipulate his vocals into entire layered performances. It felt like watching someone remix their own work live on stage, and really has only one precedent in modern dance music – the equally adventurous live sampling of Matthew Herbert, with whom Lidell has already collaborated. ‘Music Will Not Last’ makes for an awesome opener, and Lidell shows himself to be in adventurous spirit right from the outset. After a crazy cut-and-paste refashioning of crowd-pleaser ‘A Little Bit More’, he introduces the very special guests who join him for tonight’s show, the first time he has played with a live band on British soil.

Most of the guest musicians are gathered from hip Berlin label Kitty Yo, with Gonzales providing some gospel-infused piano flourishes, Taylor Savvy some exhuberant if slightly untutored drumming, Mocky the rock solid basslines and Snax the essential funky Rhodes keyboards and synths. They replay ‘A Little Bit More’ in the more conventional funk style that Lidell has recently adopted, and Lidell involves the crowd in some shameless call-and-response audience participation, every bit as good an ‘entertainer’ as that tedious twit Robbie Williams.
The band play through most of the excellent ‘Multiply’ album, with Lidell successfully wearing the clothes of his major influences – Otis Redding on ‘What Is It This Time?’, Sly Stone for ‘You Got Me Up’ (for which Mocky cheekily nicks the bassline from ‘Thank You For Talking To Me Africa’). Lidell generates so much energy and enthusiasm that this performance genuinely has some of the spirit of the legendary Stax/Volt revue shows. It’s just a shame that, drawing exclusively on ‘Multiply’ and ignoring Lidell’s radically different glitchy techno debut ‘Muddlin’ Gear’, it’s such a brief thrill. Lidell has been dismissed in some quarters as a Joss Stone for the electro set, which is grossly unfair. He arguably has a more instinctive feel for the music than Stone, despite her established soul patrons, and he always filters the past through a decisively modernist prism. If anything, it’s just great pop music.

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