Tag Archives: Nervous Testpilot

Knifehandchop, Nervous Testpilot and The Nailbomb Cults

The Wheatsheaf, Oxford
13th November 2005

Tonight’s Vacuous Pop night would be a good case study for a scholar of the current state of laptop electronica. Knifehandchop and The Nailbomb Cults are at opposing ends of the spectrum, with Nervous Testpilot slotting somewhere in between.

Birthday boy The Nailbomb Cults is a complete aural onslaught – a disjointed crash of noise, cut-ups, mangled samples, frenetic beats and breaks, and so on. It’s not exactly commercial, and an immediate comparison with Aphex Twin springs to mind. The apparently random nature of the set becomes more cohesive a few tracks in, but it’s still hard to discern any sort of structure. However, the unpolished harsh, edgy sounds make the overall performance more interesting than it could be if it were dominated by drum and bass breaks and relentless gabba.

Knifehandchop is the epitome of smooth dance beats in comparison. Starting with dark hiphop rhythms and heavy vocal samples, he journeys through hard house, rap and drum and bass towards gabba – and back again. It’s a lot more coherent than TNC’s stuff, but seems to suffer from being more like a DJ set than his recorded output; tonight, the emphasis is on the audience rather than the inventiveness and creation he only shows glimpses of. Hooked on Ebonics stands out amongst the plethora of familiar samples.

Nervous Testpilot is tonight playing more from his recent game soundtrack EP Determinance than his earlier stuff. He’s not quite living up to his Venetian Snares and Autechre-influenced billing – the newer stuff is trancey, but amongst the build-ups and sweeps there are still traces of his trademark breaks, cut-ups, glitches and jazzy melodies. Spacetime (from Determinance) and the older Raiders of the Lost Arp demonstrate the development of his style, and in the process encroach into both The Nailbomb Cults and Knifehandchop territory.


From Nightshift, December 2005

Cumulonimbus, Nervous Testpilot and Blunt Instruments

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.


From Nightshift, September 2002


Eskimo Disco, Trademark and Script – The Exeter Hall, Oxford – 2nd December 2005

Knifehandchop, Nervous Testpilot and The Nailbomb Cults – The Wheatsheaf, Oxford – 13th November 2005

King Biscuit Time – The Zodiac, Oxford – 25th September 2005

The Mission – The Zodiac, Oxford – 8th September 2005

Josh Rouse – The Zodiac, Oxford – 17th July 2005

Big Speakers, Flooded Hallways and Capsky – The Cellar, Oxford – 3rd June 2005

Melanie C – The Zodiac, Oxford – 2nd May 2005

I Am Kloot – The Zodiac, Oxford – 16th April 2005

Thirteen Senses – The Zodiac, Oxford – 8th March 2005


Zoe Bicat, Spygirl and Joe Hughes – The Cellar, Oxford – 4th November 2002

British Sea Power – The Zodiac, Oxford – 15th October 2002

Trademark – The Jericho Tavern, Oxford – 29th August 2002

Cumulonimbus, Nervous Testpilot and Blunt Instruments – The Cellar, Oxford – 12th August 2002

a-ha – Royal Albert Hall, London – 25th June 2002

Fischerspooner – The Bridge, London – 30th May 2002

Mansun – The Zodiac, Oxford – 19th May 2002

The Soundtrack of our Lives and Sahara Hotnights – The Zodiac, Oxford – 11th May 2002

AM60 – The Cellar, Oxford – 31st January 2002