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