Squarepusher / LFO

London Astoria on Tue 9th Dec 2008

With such a rich and well-documented historical relationship with hard rock and heavy metal at the heart of the venue, it seems a tad out of context for this writer to spend his personal final gig at the London Astoria watching one of the UK’s premier electronica musicians strut his stuff in front of a couple of thousand adoring followers. Having said that, if there is one act that could possibly contest Aphex Twin’s crown as the biggest and most unique alternative dance artist of the last ten years, then it is surely Dorset’s prodigal son Squarepusher. The man born Tom Jenkinson has amassed 12 full-length albums and a host of EPs in his career to date, and tonight promises to be a faithful celebration of his work.

In all fairness, Jenkinson has produced music in his time that is as ‘alternative’ as anything the likes of Sonic Youth, Fugazi and Soundgarden could throw up, so it is something of a surprise to see a more conventional DJ open up the show as the Astoria slowly but surely begins to fill. Of course, few dance acts can avoid appearing conventional when contrasted with tonight’s headliner, and LFO (that’s Low Frequency Oscillator, by the way) does a decent enough job of warming up those who pay attention. It is frustrating to find that the guy has been firmly tucked into one corner of the stage and given no lighting apart from his own small screen, but he manages to get a few heads moving, and the reaction that greets stomping floor-filler ‘Freak’ should ensure that we’ll be hearing more from this one very soon.

The surprise at seeing Squarepusher push his own support act into a confined space is instantly counteracted by the sight of the man himself tuning up his trusty bass in a welcome and surprisingly humbling twist. Greeted like a hero during sound check and cheered like a demi-God by the time ‘Star Time 2’ kicks off his set, it is initially something of an anti-climax when the first few tunes aired see very little in the way of vigour or stage show. This is all soon blown into irrelevance though, as the arrival of a live drummer and the emergence of a huge backing screen sees the show explode into life – with the crowd happily lapping up every second of it.

From that precise point onwards things continue to improve both visually and in terms of atmosphere, as favourites from “Hello Meow” to “Welcome To Europe” and “Planet Gear” are reeled out in quick succession. With his bass linked directly to the impressive screen behind him, Jenkinson’s ability to shred the shit out of his instrument of choice is made all the clearer, and by the time a couple of spontaneous mixes finish the night off, his audience is both captive and chaotic, with virtually no one in the building able to resist rocking out like maniacs. So then, a somewhat unorthodox way to bid farewell to one of London’s greatest venues, but as endless swarms of grinning faces stroll off into the chilly December evening, you have to admit – the guy did it justice.

article by: Merlin Alderslade

published: 11/12/2008 16:47

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