Simian Mobile Disco Venue, Vancouver, BC, December 4
Published Dec 05, 2012Considering the sewer of negative press deadmau5 unleashed on electronic music in 2012, care of his "We All Hit Play" Tumblr post claiming that all EDM producers do live is hit the spacebar, acts like Simian Mobile Disco have never been more significant. Anyone paying casual attention at the fogged-out Venue this evening could see that UK duo James Ford and Jas Shaw do an awful lot to earn their keep.
Without a laptop in sight, the duo manipulated a few tables full of analog gear (synths, sequencers, drum machines, etc.), laid out so the crowd could see their every adjustment. Always communicating with and playing over each other, the duo worked the gear as a team, perpetually grooving to their deep, tribal, tech house beats, driving the crowd to near epilepsy with their audio-triggered rainbow honeycomb and piercing strobe lights. The bit where the strobes alternated blue and red made everything look like '50s 3D, but without the cardboard anaglyph glasses, which seemed apt with all that vintage technology onstage.
Shaw manned a station closest to a four-section Analogue Systems modular rack. He sporadically tweaked its knobs and re-patched its cables like an old telephone operator, the monstrosity's eight-beat sequencer keeping continuous time. Sometimes Shaw would cheat to the middle or Ford would lean over his side to make a few adjustments. Unlike so many Ableton and Serato performers, SMD were clearly working their gear, not merely selling artifice.
The group seemed to transition through their material intuitively, pushing the brink of quantization with their forms. This meant that, for all of their pre-planned ideas, things would get a little rough here and there. Yet those rare moments when the delay went a bit off or a loop started to feedback too much and one of the guys had to rein it back in, those weren't really mistakes — they were evidence of a densely evolving soundscape that the duo were holding together by the force of their conviction, proving this was not your typical deadmau5ackery. As they say, without risk, there is no reward.