White Mice + Parts & Labor + DJ Scotch Egg + Pleasurehorse @ Barden's Boudoir
To be honest, if i was feeling lazy, i could desribe this gig in three words. And those words would be noise, wires and distortion. All three were in wild abundance on this cold night in Dalston's somewhat hidden underground-lair of a venue.
The night began by being lured away from the bar by the sound of a Boeing-747 taking off and then crashing in a fireball of crunching metal and whirling glass. What waited for me on the stage was the sight of a bald, bearded man, named Shawn Greenlee aka Pleasurehorse, trying to gyrate two spinning tops at a crazy frequency before using sticks on a touch sensitive mat to create a cochlea-cracking cacophony. At times it was messy, sporadic and unlistenable but then subtlety the sound of helicopter blades would morph into a beat and from the midst of the racket, industrial buzzings and glitches would weave an ugly but compelling fabric of noise. Using programs and technology that boggled my mind, this membrane of sound ebbed and pulsed, fusing with the air particles until Shawn had had enough and, by scratching his weird spinning tops, would tear it all apart.
DJ Scotch Egg was a completely different animal all together. Armed with three Nintendo Gameboys, a Casio keyboard and a microphone wired up to a distortion pedal, DJSE delivered a welcome, party atmosphere to the venue. Backed by the sound of Mario on a night out in Manchester in the early 90s, this little Japanese fella bounced around the stage like a paragoomba with heaps of energy and enthusiasm, until he slammed down the pedal and mangled the fuck out of the vibrations with his screaming and yelping. Even with his sound not being top quality which he, endearingly, kept apologising for, DJ Scotch Egg's 8-bit rave was a real enjoyment to behold. I could find any DJSE tunes but you can stream some from his myspace.
Finally the first sign of actual, recognisable instruments were visible. A hi-hat here, a stringed fretboard there, all plugged in and wired to strange gizmos but instruments nonetheless. When i first heard Parts & Labor earlier this year, i was blown away by the intensity and creativity of their current record Mapmaker. Live, they totally live up to on-record promise. It may have just been the presence of live instruments but compared to the previous two acts, this felt personal, almost intimate. Even when the beat of the bass drum was blasting you in the face and the keyboard squealing under the weight of effects, this set felt organic. Starting with The Gold We're Digging, its military drumming, evocatic vocals and cybonic murmurs setting the tone for the whole performance. The drumming really is the focus of this band, keeping songs lightning-paced and loud, while technically being unbelievable when everything else sounds chaotic. Ending on album opener Fractured Skies, its soaring trumpet part played on a 5-string electric guitar and the frantic pounding of stick on skin, the band look exhausted, having put their all into playing, but after calls for "More!" begin a later self-prolaimed "worst encore ever!" as bassist BJ Warshaw forgot to tune up but to me it still sounded amazing, as did everything they played tonight.
I had no idea what to expect from White Mice. As three deranged man-sized laboratory rodents took to the stage, two of them wearing blood-soaked lab coats, one with a spinning eye and one with flashing ears, the cold sweat of terror swept down my back. What had i let myself in for? The wall of noise they produced was immense, a grinding bassline repeating over and over, an oscillator creating unheard of noises and blemishes, backed by raucous, relentless pounding of drum skins while expletives and orders were barked somewhere in the belly of it all, but like in the episode of South Park about the secret of Easter, men dressed as animals, no matter how deranged, can't really be taken seriously. After half an hour, the novelty of the costumes wore off and the music became monotonous so i left early and as i climbed the stairs to the high street, leaving the cacophonous mice behind, i felt a ringing in my ears...or was that a squeaking.
Pleasurehorse - Tighter [3 Maneuvers]
Parts & Labor - Fractured Skies
Parts & Labor - Long Way Down
White Mice - DieaBeastTiTTy
To see more photos of this gig, check out my flickr