Off the top of my head I can’t actually recall ever going to a gig where there were no vocalists. This means no means of communication between the artist and the audience and they have nothing but the music to dazzle them instead of an occasional witty comment or the telling of the story behind the song. This gig was actually quite different to many I had been to before. There was no table for merchandise; the artists came onto the stage by working their way through the crowd and everyone was dancing.
However the moving of feet and nodding of heads wasn’t immediate. Rocketnumbernine took to the stage with the inevitable semi circle of an unsure audience surrounding the stage. At first it felt like there was a huge turn to wait for in the music but it soon became clear that the effect came from the way the synths and drums grew. Ben and Tom Page make an impressive pair, sporting respectively what appeared to be a touch screen oscillator and a mixture of live and programmed drums. The breaks in-between each song was fairly obvious but never did the pace dwindle and as soon as one tone had faded out a new one was swiftly following it with a concise and articulated drum beat behind it.
At the best of moments the pair on stage melded their sound: Ben throwing in some tribal beats and making the distinction as who was creating each sound hard to define. But it was the bass that overwhelmed me. Perhaps I was just standing in the right place but the music rattled my insides, intimidating me almost with the way it vibrated the floor and myself. Oddly and also of notice was the way each member played. It’s hard to match the movement and energy of a drum player when you’ve got little more than a keyboard in front of you but Ben was soaking up every bit of reverb and echo he created. He was eating up his own creation but when it’s as overwhelming as this, I can’t really blame him.
Hendrick Weber – the man who is the rightfully acclaimed Pantha du Prince – looks simultaneously much like I thought he would and also nothing what I thought he would be. He appears and begins his set twinkling his toybox rhythms with a jacket and an odd hood covering most of his face. When you listen to one of his records you imagine Weber to be one of these people who doesn’t make public appearances, hiding himself away from public attention so the focus stays primarily on the music. His shadowed face and layers of garments seems to confirm this image but as he washes through his idyllic pieces he takes off the hood and jacket and reveals himself as a surprisingly young looking professional of sorts with the top button of his shirt done up and his hair kept relatively neatly.
But I can’t say I really cared or noticed this immediately. I’ll admit, I’m still taking in Black Noise and haven’t had the full effect of it hit me quite yet but I know the music is special and worth the attention. Tonight something happened that’s never happened at a live gig before and only happens usually when I’m listening to a record I know down to every fine detail. I became transfixed, hypnotized and put into a trance by Weber’s music. I was lost in a dazzling world of thick bass, shimmering melodies and sublime beats. Soon enough I became ignorant of the crowd around me, only woken every so often when cheers would come from the audience when the Weber broke down the melodies to little more than a beat or a bass line. It was like I had fallen asleep in some way, but was still moving about, swaying my body and nodding my head. Everything else might as well not have mattered because all I was hearing was the music. My heartbeat might as well have stopped because all I could feel going through me was the beats he created on stage. And then it stopped. Cut short by his curfew, Weber shrugged at the audience. It was one of those times where the music could have gone on for hours and you likely wouldn’t have complained at all but as another great artist of this genre says, “Good Things End.”
Another difference this gig has that immediately ranked it higher still was the time it took to set up the next artist. Before I’ve managed to fully confirm once more where I am and try figure out what had just happened to me, Keiran Hebden (aka Four Tet) had taken the stage. The set up in front of me was decisively familiar, with nothing more than a table with a few laptops on it and a plentiful amount of gizmos and gadgets. The beginning was inevitable but Hebden didn’t throw the crowd straight into it. Instead he washed their ear drums out with faint murmurs and notes of a voice until from beneath its surface came the sublime cut up sequence that make “Angel Echoes”. Though the cutting up of the voice has a few ragged edges (it’s better for this) it matches the face of its creator. Hebden looks both tired and switched on, with blackened shadows under his eyes juxtaposing a welcoming smile he gave to the crowd when they sounded their appreciation.
Once again I was thrown into a daze, engrossed by the sound coming from the stage though perhaps this time with more avid movement. The difference with Hebden was that he provided a breather for the audience instead of morphing his set into one huge piece. It proved just as effective as serving it all as one. The audience was able to show their love and it also built the tension more as he began the whirring that leads to the superb single from There Is Love In You, “Love Cry.” The song went down as well as one could expect but it was the nuanced touches he made that created the best effect. He’d tease the audience into thinking it was whittling down before bringing back the beat again or he would hold out the pauses for an extra few bars to make the release all the more rewarding.
Quite naturally the audience adored his masterful skills of creation on stage. Though it’s hard to tell what noises he’s actually making on stage there is not denying Hebden’s skill at controlling and giving the best to the crowd. It’s little surprise once you see him live why he was given not one but two DJ spots in famous London clubs. The crowd swayed, hopped, nodded their heads or just stood mesmerized by the music. The venue was full but everyone moved around freely, strangers passing a knowing gaze into each other’s eyes as they agree on the sublime content of tonight’s show. One girl was even making stickers that expressed the admiration for the man on stage for those around her. There was love in us all and if it wasn’t at least a mutual kind between everyone, then it was most definitely a great kind for Four Tet.