England - Full Moon 95 - 07/02/04
Manitoba + Four Tet
Corner Hotel, Richmond, Melbourne, AUS 11.06.04
Live electronica doesn't have the visceral thrill of rock music: there's no connection between
what's happening on stage and what you feel when the bleeps and quakes come rampaging out of the
speakers. There's no sweat from the performers; no kinetic connection (kinnection?!). It takes
just the click of a mouse to send a terrifying loop out to wreak havoc amongst an expectant crowd;
the whole process feels wrong.
And so it was for Kieran Hebden - Four Tet. He could have played songs from his albums
perfectly using his two laptops and I would still be cynical. Instead he wove remnants from beautifully
crafted songs such as "Glue of the World" and then gave them an almighty roughing up by sending
chaotic blasts of noise squealing over the top. Brett, my wife's brother, couldn't understand why
he couldn't hold a beat and develop the songs. Just as the tracks started to get good, they'd dissolve
into screams and bleeps, or ratchet in tempo before cutting into hacked-up breakbeats. I'm all for
experimentation - if it's listenable - but I had to concede that Hebden's decision to give us the
barest glimpses of his lovely music behind an angular barrier of knob-twiddled scree was ill-advised.
I'd rather listen to the albums (see our review of Rounds).
Dan Snaith, however, has got the right idea. No doubt turned off from playing carefully-constructed
electronica on his Start Breaking My Heart debut - which, a couple of years since release,
already sounds horribly dated - he's launched forth under the same Manitoba guise as a purveyor
of a very different and altogether more satisfying sonic meal. Up In Flames combines some
deliciously inventive live beats with fog-thick psychedelic production that melds organs, guitars
and voices into an effects-laden cloud of gorgeousness.
Rather than fuck around with the pre-existing tracks on laptops, Snaith has wisely set up a more
rock-oriented live show that kicks some serious ass. Twin drumkits, guitars, keyboards, glockenspiel,
recorder and melodica were played with ferocious energy and joy by Snaith and his two animal-masked
cohorts. Backed up by lovely colourful projections of galloping toy horses, dancing aliens and
kaleidoscopic faces, tracks such as "Bijou" and "Jacknuggeted" were leant a hallucinogenic intensity
that really elated the crowd.
A rainbow-amalgam of Circulatory System's multi-instrumental ecstasy and My Bloody Valentine's
drony intensity, Manitoba simply ripped it up live. Well worth a dose if you get the chance.
Copyright © 2004 Tim Clarke