Thursday, November 25, 2004

Belge blog

Murray: My last time in this part of the Pays-Bas was a classic case of missing the moment. We were in Ghent, en route to Amsterdam; I said to my travelling partner that I must pay homage to the birthplace of Euro-techno – R&S records, perhaps standing outside its entrance for 10 seconds. As an entirely predictable fug enveloped our minds, this trip wasn’t made. We also cursed our luck after finding out the reason for people’s apparent lethargy that evening – the 10 Days of Techno festival had just ended. Bloody hell Flanders.

No such rueing this time. On Smunk’s lead we went to the Plexiphonic/U-Cover do in a swimming pool, and followed that up with a rousing surge of techno at local institution Fuse. Buoyed by visuals from Ewo, the former was an interesting setting for acts Ontayso, Kettel, Tim Koch and Ten & Tracer. Pleasant melodies and tones elided into one another, some with staccato rhythmic undercurrents. Unfortunately though, there was very little to distinguish most of the derivative ambient meanderings – though one band used a drum kit and another’s electro finale got a few people up. In the end the aural fayre for these constant critics failed to connect effectively with either brain or body. Have our post-rave stomachs gorged on too much ambient refinery? When Aphex’s celestial Lichen (off Works II) is being used as accompaniment in Culture Show plugs, I fear the answer is yes.

The taxi driver’s suggestion to go to Fuse was met with enthusiasm (we wanted to go to a big rave-off involving Detroiters Craig and May but couldn’t remember its name or location). Straight away the endless relay of riffs and breakdowns and Roland assaults reeled us in; our bodies shaking from the pulse. Enlightenment through techno is often postulated; whether this crowd corresponded or were like us consumer fascists on a night out was difficult to discern. Ultimately despite its hardcore presentation the music was not as severe as squatter techno, or as emotive as psy-trance. Several hours in there saw us off, and we left into the Belgian dawn, unable to secure a coffee even in the district’s seedier dens.

Leo: The Brux margins were perhaps the most interesting to observe. As we sat on some gallery steps, a new age preacher, apparently from all points in between America, South Africa and Brussels, symbolically stamped on his can of Jupiler to express an end to our interaction (and his commitment to a simplistic and generalised understanding of himself and the world, topped off with a dash of dodgy “exotic” commentary). Nearby ranted pugilistic (in hair and gait) Arab lads, rejecting religious conformity for public boozing and marginalising (thereby conforming to indigenous stereotypes of them). The techno-trance was seconded to an amphitheatre atmosphere and audience (and working very well); while the ambient tunes were self-exiled to the self-regarding suburbs (always happy with itself and its ersatz darkness). Cafes were for the damned and dangerous; chocolate for the insulated. Where metro and tram network information is a riot of dual-language deception, this is a city with more identity problems than the average post-industrial people pile but better than most on disques, cuisine and couture.
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Monday, November 08, 2004

Cinestatic wunderkind conquers King’s Cross

Mike Smunk performed under the difficult conditions of having seven or eight dozen pretend punks crushed up against his face in the entirely agreeable surroundings of York Way’s The Lincoln Lounge. The night was called Never Mind the Fireworks, Here’s the Bollocks (John Lydon might have approved but was aplagued by bugs last time I checked).

Initial sound problems were fairly quickly surmounted and a deep and stonking set ensued. Trademark Smunkisms (trumpet spanning fragile-to-startlingly emphatic, too-dark bass, funky Rhodes, squelchy synth) combined with elements previously less prominent (more drum 'n bass flavours, freaky rubato FX), all funnelled through the nervy intensity of Smunk's coaxing and cajoling his machinic appendages. Stand out tracks were Hobgoblin with its quietly manic trumpet line, the newly junglist Darned No Good Shoes and the climactic Human Thing.

Considering very few of the audience knew the stuff, the response was muted but entirely favourable and appreciative, a number of arses swinging with the scattered grooves. Roll on the next one – with a better showing of fully primed troops the roof will be blown off and no mistake

bruce @
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