The Cellar, Oxford
12th August 2002
Electronic diversity at this month’s Trailerpark: a first act starting acoustically only to end with DJs and breakbeats, a second act assaulting the audience with electronic madness, and a third act mixing laptop-generated sounds with live bass, all jaggedly enveloped with DJing from Oli and Sleeve.
Blunt Instruments started simply as a voice-guitar duo, Lewis Cutler’s soulful vocal acrobatics neatly complementing Simon Reynolds’ blues-funk chord style. After 2 songs, random hiphop breakbeats from the DJs sped up the fusion, and Lewis’ versatile voice coped well, nearly rapping in some places. They lacked their sax player and rapper but the latter was present on record, if slightly out of synch. However, their slick merging of genres made their short set work well live. Ill beats and blunt vocals? Not quite.
After a short interlude of Kraftwerk and Squarepusher came the night’s star – Nervous Testpilot, AKA the Paul Taylor Node. His eclectic mix of frenetic beats and diverse samples mostly baffled the audience, but couldn’t fail to charm. With tracks starting with cut up voice samples and ending like Tubular Bells in a car crash, the insanity was coherent: melodic percussion and rhythmic melodies weaved in and out to create a diverse, intriguing and original soundscape. The live performance of his Super Mario Bros theme remix was an ambush of drumnbass programming and every effect, transformation, and sample you could think of.
Unfortunately, Cumulonimbus weren’t so captivating. Their basic set-up – live bass guitar, laptop with sequencer and keyboard sampler – combined beautifully to laid-back drumnbass effect for the first track; unfortunately, the point was laboured somewhat as they overindulgently repeated the same formula for over an hour, with little variation, especially with the monotonous overuse of the Roland 909 snare. A promising start yielded disappointing results, and ate into Oli and Sleeve’s DJing time. However, with a little more imagination and creativity, as displayed by the night’s other acts, they could excel.