August 16, 2002

VOICES versus the ravers

Don't try to fight it. Admit to yourself that you think inch for inch, and pound for pound, who needs IDM when there's acid trance around? Well now. Some of us wouldn't actually say that, and not just for fear of embarrassment. Some of us prefer the crystalline melodies of µ-ziq to the thumping back-end bass of John Dickweed, the skittering beats of Autechre to the Sasha.

Unfortunately there were few who shared my loyalties at the Nesh Party two weeks ago at the Metro. Oh, sure. To even attend a concert comprised solely of artists from Warp Records must mean something. It must mean you appreciate IDM to some degree. Maybe you bought a Warp record. Once. Maybe you said, "Man, this is the bomb (man)" upon first hearing Analogue Bubblebath (shudder). Then again, MAYBE YOU'RE JUST A EX-RAVER WITH AN E HABIT AND THE URGE TO FIND OUT WHAT'S "ALL THE RAGE THESE DAYS." My point being that nobody seemed disappointed or even surprised at the Nesh Party when they paid for "intelligent" dance music and instead got moronic dance music. Analogy: like paying to see Aesop Rock perform, only to hear him cover Ja Rule.

The show began on a promising note (ha ha ha), with Jamie Lidell illustrating one of the most interesting ways in which electronic music can be used improvisationally. Lidell would first beatbox into a microphone, then loop that in a sampler/sequencer, then sing or hum a few notes, loop that, sing a few more, creating a harmony, and so on. Once he had established the background track (most were of a wildly dissonant timbre), he would wail or rap over his just-completed song—and surprisingly, I found him to be quite an energetic performer, considering the reputations of these "bedroom electronic musicians." On top of that, Lidell had a pretty fly voice for a white guy. Whether imitating gospel or rapping—his voice transformed into a menacing squeal—Lidell proved himself quite capable in the realm of performance (as opposed to composition). Alas! He sometimes subsided into knob-twiddling and laptop-tapping, which resulted in loud, static compositions.

Second up to bat was Richard Devine, (in)famous for his similarity to Autechre circa 1995. I only ever liked his album—you know, the green hairy one—insofar as it emulated all the old greats from the Warp and Rephlex catalogues, and his performance only solidified my well-founded doubts. At first Devine "played" some nice ambient textures accompanied by myriad clicks and cuts, but Devine was the first to slide into the mud of acid-house/happy hardcore/jungle trance/whatever you want to call it. Nevertheless, playing these pounding 4/4 beats and simplistic melodies seemed to drive the crowd crazy with joy/nostalgia. Sallow fellows with oily hair and eye sockets like craters shook their fists and dudes with soul patches and D & G glasses bobbed their heads and everybody seemed happy but me.

I took advantage of my V.I.P. status to climb the stairs to the balcony and slump over in my chair from exhaustion/exasperation. DJ Ease (of Nightmares on Wax) was guileless in his shittiness. He delivered the goods just as people wanted them—sugary and tangy. In the interest of full disclosure, the author hereby admits to owning Smoker's Delight, but wait! "I was young and foolish, then," he cries out! "Young and foolish, and far too trusting of Warp."

I would have left there and then, if not for my faith that the upcoming act, Scott Herren (alias Prefuse 73), would trump all his forebears. And indeed he did. Despite a somewhat unexciting performance style (occasionally hitting buttons on his sampler), Prefuse succeeded where others failed by doing something very simple: sounding characteristically like Prefuse 73, and not like a worse version of himself. Sure, this didn't allow for a particularly "unique" experience, but when you can't get "quality" and "unique" together, you'll settle for one over none.

There were two projection screens set up on the Metro's stage, but ostensibly these were reserved for the performances following my departure. Luke Vibert, Chris Clark, and LFO were all slated to play, but the prospect of waiting at the 55 station outside the red line at 3 a.m. didn't seem worth the wait. I've yet to regret this decision.