posted on May 11, 2009 03:45
Aphex Twin, Luke Vibert - WARP 20 (live in Cité de la Musique, Paris)
Review Snapshot: To honour one of electronic music's best-loved labels, a birthday bash featuring two cult figures from different points on the spectrum of that genre. Vibert's DJ set is cool and seductive; Aphex Twin sets your head and entrails to spin-cycle. Two different live experiences but each great in their own way.
The Cluas Verdict? 8 out of 10
Gouging the mind’s ear for two decades now, Warp Records are currently celebrating their twentieth birthday by putting on shows in major cities around the world. The Paris leg at the Cité de la Musique comprises two nights: last night Pivot, !!! and Jarvis Cocker were among those getting the party started (Nightmares On Wax apparently pulled out at the last minute) and tonight Aphex Twin (right), Luke Vibert, Hudson Mohawke, Leila and Plaid are blowing out the candles.
Luke Vibert is here doing a DJ set in what’s normally an installation space at this venue, a combination of museum, exhibition centre and concert hall for all genres of music. Apparently there’s some international turntable code decreeing that artists can’t play their own music during DJ sets, so we don’t hear Vibert’s gorgeous ‘Sharp AZ’.
But no matter: his DJ set is fantastic. He starts out soulfully with the eclecticism, sensitivity and funkiness of Mo’Wax and the boy Shadow in particular. At just the right moments he knows when to up the beats and build excitement before pulling it down into cooler, more cerebral sounds again. Thus he plays with the crowd all during his set, and it’s impossible not to get swept up in it.
Only once does Vibert drop the ball, by working in the vocals from ‘The Power of Love’ by Frankie Goes To Hollywood. The effect is to make the crowd self-consciously aware that they’re dancing to some ‘80s naffness, like when a film actor gives a corny line straight to camera with a wink. But that’s just a minor blip. Luke Vibert is probably the best DJ we’ve ever danced to, though in fairness we only have as a comparison DJ Wreck-The-Buzz at our local hop.
Dashing into the main concert hall so as to grab a space for Aphex Twin, we caught the end of Plaid’s set. Earlier we had seen some of Leila’s turn. Both seemed impressive enough from the brief glimpse we got of each, so we must check them out in detail sometime. (We didn’t get to see Hudson Mohawke. Sorry.)
As for tonight’s marquee name, Aphex Twin live is an impressive experience. Richard D. James (born in Limerick!) looks less diabolic in person than the distorted face from his videos: in fact, he exudes a kind of Jamie Oliver mate-iness. His alter-ego, though, is gleefully malevolent – those squelchy, distorted sounds trouble your mind and shudder your entrails.
On which point, his visuals feature a gruesomely clinical mortuary sequence that’s not for the squeamish; some punters briefly stepped outside to recall their lunch. In a shout out to the home crowd, we also got a slide show of the sicker images from controversial ‘60s French satirical magazine Hara Kiri.
As for the music, there are times when James coasts along by letting the bare beats drag on for a minute or two, as if he’s filling time while rooting in his bag for another trick. Anyone who came just to hear ‘Windowlicker’ or ‘Come To Daddy’ will have been disappointed; the pretty piano melody of 'Flim' is the only one of Aphex Twin’s more familiar, accessible or ambient tracks to get a (brief) run-out tonight.
But overall it’s a great show. For pop kids like your reviewer, not a regular at live electronica or techno, the sensory blitzkrieg of Aphex Twin was an overwhelming thrill. This is one new customer who’ll be shopping here again, then.