Friday, June 03, 2005

Mark Stewart & The Maffia return

I wasn’t next to K-Punk-IT but the incident described here does not surprise me at all. We were a bit further back, wreathed in everybody else’s resin fug, being asked for pills. For many the main attraction of ATP’s Easy to Swallow night would have been the long-awaited return of Stewart & The Maffia . But the event was a pledge of sonic diversity so many had different top draws. I walked in to a set of Mac-driven destructive readout by two chartered accountants of noise, probably Hecker and his mate. Not unenticing, but after one repeated botched hell-loop too many in 20 minutes I thought it best to go find someone I knew.
After heightening expectation by taking a time to came on, the six-foot-three savant sprang on to the stage, riffs reverberating and Leblanc beats pounding. Can’t beat that comparatively slow, suffocating sound, but for me it’s disappointing that the lyrics mostly couldn’t be distinguished from the overall toxic brew. After all, this is a man with a better diagnosis than most of Britain’s ills, and some of the crowd here could do with some education alongside their entertainment. Yet the chatter increased, as did the disjunction between perfomers and audience. “The Maffia inferno can only ignite if the pain, the anger, the disappointment, the anxiety Stewart channels are there in the crowd to be fanned and fuelled.”
Not surprisingly the song to prick up most ears was the most modern-sounding one about four songs in from the end, the Maffia updating the on u sound with some post-rave hoover riffs and riddims, but still allowing enough space for Stewart’s vocal lines. Sensing overall disappointment at the night, he wearily introduced the last set of songs.

D’Aphex was up next, and the majority got back on the passification programme. It is not a little ironic to think that in this context Dicky James’ distorted glitchcore was the norm to satisfy. Those populist drill and bass workouts! (don’t get me wrong, I think the twin has done more than anybody else in alternative techno in pushing the sounds and pushing it to large numbers of people). Not seeking to equate the expensive ticket with value for money, I was off home. Somebody let me know what the “satisfy me. Now!” crowd made of Whitehouse?!

It’s depressing that, topping themselves up with prescriptions for fun, so many are just out for the hedonic experience. There are many alternative subcultures (the crowd in the most part actually just looked like a bogstandard mixmag club clientele): some nihilists were here to plot the junction of the two vectors of abject noise and drug use; others to check Stewart; still more for a rave-up. I’ve not been to one of the ATP weekenders but no doubt their expanded time and space makes the juxtaposition of different acts a lot more of an attractive proposition.

Bruce's addendum: ATP E2S was a partial success. Failed to capture the enthusiasm or atmosphere of ATP weekenders. It seems that Aphex may not have even played. Someone - possibly the Murder Boys - played rather bland, mid-tempo techno that completely failed to ignite. Actually, it's not unthinkable this was Richard D James being shocking, but Andy seemed certain he hadn't shown up. Then Whitehouse came on for 15 minutes and even managed to draw the odd can thrown from the crowd. As usual the two of them looked like they were having a great old time, angrily berating us inaudibly about something or other over the usual squall (itself rather smooth and soothing after the grating glitches of Hecker), but most of the crowd seemed indifferent/bemused. Then whoever took the final slot (murder boys again?) played more interesting and danceable electro.

Stewart & The Maffia
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