How do you review a gig of a couple of diversely-sounding electronic acts? Where the music merged from one track to the next, and where DJs such as Dr Alex Patterson kept things moving inbetween the acts? I thought I had a good grounding in the many-varied albums of these two groups, however I recognised just one piece across my time there. In fairness, I've yet to acquire System 7's newly-released latest, 'Phoenix', and naturally they played plenty off it. But otherwise, what to say? If only it could be said in pictures.
System 7 wore black. The both of them, Steve Hillage and Miquette Giraudy, had experienced appearances. Indeed, there was plenty an aged face in an enthusiastic crowd, suggesting the music appeals to a broad range, albeit the venue was busy but clearly not overcrowded. The music was accompanied by ongoing projections of images that reflect the psychedelic nature of the event. But it was in essence all about the beats created mainly by Giraudy, and Hillage's guitar and electronic overlayered interpretations.
I mused over whether it could be accused of all sounding the same. It's certainly not easy to recall and describe different tracks, however the overall feel was of varying grooves differing in both macro-tune and thud-quality, with occasional interjections of ambient, beatless rest-points. The guitar work clearly added to the tunes, never noodling for its own sake but adding an extra dimension of harmony or hook. There was sometimes feedback, and often repetitions of a theme. It worked to the crowd's clear satisfaction, but how I longed to be hearing it at a festival stage after a day's relaxing and no post-performance time constraints for grabbing the last train home.
There was an early track with a beat that reminded me of Orbital's alien-espousing 'Out There Somewhere' insofar as the beat had an almost-random tinkling effect. Shpongles 'The Nebbish Route' came to mind for a later track, through the heavy overlay of on-off guitar that was applied. Another tune had an ambient whale reference. And there was one where we were apparently "rockin' like crazy" according to the rarely-added sampled vocals, albeit in a muffled manner amongst the prominent beats.
I think that a few track names can be dropped. 'Planet 7' off the 2004 album Encantado, was thrown into the middle of the set. And in comparison to new-album mp3 snippets off System 7's website, they definitely played 'Hinotori' and 'Space Bird'.
The last couple of tracks featured a very dreadlocked fellow called Slack Baba on additional electronics duties, helping to provide a denser but still attractive sound. Some creative drumming was further added by Eat Static's Merv Pepler for the closing effort. Then back to DJ Paterson and the odd strange take on early 90s Orb tracks, until Eat Static were ready to take the stage.
Eat Static are of course but one person nowadays. Pepler, in his new solo role, treated us all to some initial electronic squeals, almost torturing the machines in his strain to convey an entrance. Then it was hard and fast beats all the way. Pepler removed his spiderweb-design top after a few tracks, matching an audience that had many a healthy torso similarly on display. But then it was a hot venue. Which brings me to the best-dressed punter of the evening, someone who came (and stayed) as The Wizard of Oz's Tin Man.
I recognised not one Eat Static track, again my lack of recent albums not helping. But then, as the sole member of the act, had the music now evolved? Not necessarily, as I recall it being mainly that thumping in nature at their rather rousing first Glastonbury show last year.
Half-way through, I had to leave for a last-train home that never materialized. I'm reliably informed that the pace and energy of the set didn't falter, indeed becoming harder as time went on. So overall, if hard and fast Eat Static music is your thing, their latest incarnation will still work mighty fine for you. And there remains plenty to enjoy about System 7 as there forge towards a 20th anniversary.
System 7's 'Phoenix' album is newly released on A-Wave Records. Samples of the album are available via their website (here).