At times throughout last night at the Faktorý upstairs stage, it felt less so a case of how amazing the artist was, but more which period of Aphex Twin’s career the artist most respected. At other times it felt like a flat out knees up rave. Aside from standout act Rangleklods, the lineup offered IDM, acid house, drum’n’bass, grind’n’bass, acid, acid’n’bass, throb’n’bass, acid’n’acid, or in one case “topless dance party gacked on acid’n’bass.”
The two opening acts were to be intimate affairs, with the crowd still blowing in out of the wind. The lucky few though – who seemed to feature family members, fellow video store colleague types and stoner mates – were fortunate enough to see some really promising potential in action.
I get the feeling Icelandic native Fu Kaisha spent a lot of time preparing his Airwaves set. The immaculately programmed 40 minutes of electronica was so attentive to detail, right down to the very last pitch-shifted sample.
Skurken, who followed Fu Kaisha, played a set very stylistically similar. Both acts bore a slight physical resemblance too, and a more than slight musical resemblance to Richard D. James.
What was most impressive was both artist’s ability to cram emotion into what can very often be pretty unsympathetic, detached electronic music. There were gauzy synth-tones underneath retro-futurist melodies against jungle rhythms, Boards of Canada style sci-fi interludes, set against warm analog tones oftentimes oozing their way in through the track.
In one of Fu Kaisha’s later pieces a saxophone bit which wouldn’t have been out of place on the Blade Runner soundtrack played underneath a rapid-fire one million BPM filler percussion bit, to fabulous effect, before mixing in samples of what sounded like HAL 9000 speaking in reverse, over his choppy, quick worming beats. Skurken’s set boasted more variation, more of a house influence, and a regular techno thump to breakup the assault.
One of the biggest pleasures of both sets was finding melodies hidden amongst the asteroid field of rimshots and snares whizzing past at any time. If these guys played a regular night in Reykjavík I for one would be delighted.
Bix’s eleventh hour cancellation meant Thizone was brought upstairs as a replacement (see review here), then followed by the misleadingly titled Quadruplos (they’re only two dudes).
Incorporating similar elements to Skurken and Fu Kaisha, the duo managed to be
1) a bit more playful, at times gearshifting down the tempo into sleazeball slow jam mode
2) A LOT more engaging to watch, amping the crowd at every opportunity and
3) infinitely more danceable.
During the first two sets, awkward Icelandic stoners shifted their weight from foot to foot before spazzing out briefly and self-consciously. Quadruplos brought in a 4-to-the-floor thump, allowing the same dudes to default into head banging along. For me this was a defining feature of their set, welcoming the heaviest low-end of the evening so far and setting a womping bass loose against rave textures.
“We’ve never been this far North,” chief ‘klod Esben Andersen announced at the start of their set, which was to be the standout highlight of the evening. Rangleklods from ‘little old Denmark’ as Esben called his homeland packed out the room for their highly-anticipated set. They didn’t disappoint. The Danish two-piece played through 45 minutes of instantly likeable, highly listenable electro pop cuts, sharing vocal duties. The songs weren’t quick, not flighty like the previous acts and had structure and meat-on-the-bone, with elements building around the chugging bass line before climbing to a point where a knob would be tweaked and the song would break into a final two minutes of day-glo arpeggio throb.
At one point Esben was having a pretty aggressive moment with his MPC sampler, triggering the same effect in quick succession, while his bandmate stared across the stage at him looking a little concerned. At another point he utilised something a synth instrution manual once lead me to believe is called a D-Beam: looking like a mini version of the Yoko Ono peace tower beaming up from his synth but working kinda like an updated version of a theremin, warbling the notes. After setting a groove going, Esben would wave his hands regally over the device, as if conducting his machinery, summoning further heights to the bliss out. I just wish these bliss outs lasted a little longer.
Most endearing though was that Rangleklods looked legitimately flattered by the rapturous response they received. This could well have been their biggest gig to date outside Denmark, where the band have been gathering a steady following since their impressive appearance at Roskilde earlier this year.
A guy crept onto the stage to inform them they were overtime. “Unfortunately that was our last song,” Esben announced, receiving an impassioned but understanding response from the crowd. “But don’t worry guys, we’re playing four more times over the festival,” he reassured us. Thank god for that.
Around this point the night got a bit strange. After the euphoria of Rangleklods, I stepped out for a snack. On re-entering, the room had been converted to what appeared to be a late ’90s acid rave, right down to the top hats, glowsticks, tank tops and eye glitter.
On the stage was Tanya, reminiscent of a No Doubt-era Gwen Stefani, a fox mask perched up on her head while she pogo-ed about, hands raised in victory. Next to her, a gentleman – Marlon I presume – shuffled to the front of the stage and back, slinking his shaved head around in all directions, while motioning a heart beating by punching his clenched fist under his shirt.
Part of the Reykjavík-based Weirdcore crew, the two spun energetic ’90s inflected acid jams to a crowd of followers of the scene. While the fast acid house numbers lacked a bit of variation, they were separated by brief but welcome respites.
The final act of the night was Futuregrapher, who stood behind a table of equipment to the rear of the stage. What bewildered this reviewer is the reason for the two 30-something men who spent the majority of the set wandering the front of the stage: one with a shaved head, flannel button up shirt and matching handkerchief around his mouth Wild West style, the other looking like he’d just made it out of bed. They proceeded to pull shapes and deliver spoken-word messages over the grinding tracks.
It wasn’t not-entertaining, it was just a little distracting, and I didn’t really see the point of it. What started as a kind of Happy Mondays-era bagging dancing display turned into what I can only describe as Bud and Doyle from Biodome skipping around, picking imaginary items in an imaginary supermarket, before throwing them around, to an inaudible recording of the Safety Dance.
Futuregrapher did a fine job keeping the steady crowd moving until 2am, by which time a crowd of about twenty had populated the stage, most of whom had removed their shirts and were stomping chaotically. The last thing I remember was a straight-laced middle aged Asian man on stage gyrating next to a lady whipping her dreadlocks around wildly. Things just kind of escalated from there.
I should really watch Biodome again soon. I wonder whether Pauly Shore and Stephen Baldwin hang out?