Consumer Electronics / Circuit Breaker / Knifedoutofexistence

Posted: 7 April 2016 in Live
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Wharf Chambers, Leeds, 4th April 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Despite there being a fair few middle-aged blokes in black jeans milling about, the demographic of the crowd who’ve turned out to Wharf Chambers on a Monday night is pleasingly diverse.

Knifedoutofexistence is one man, Dean Robinson-Saunders. A lone artist with a substantial array of pedals and electronic bits and pieces and a bleak outlook. A fairly standard stereotype on the noise scene. He’s dressed in black, long hair down over his face as he hunches over his spread of kit, laid out on a table on the floor on front of the stage, in near darkness, growling and howling impenetrable intonations of pain and anguish amidst a wall of raging noise. But Knifedoutofesistence stands out by virtue of being making a raging wall of noise that’s texturally interesting, and by the sheer intensity of the performance. He clutches a chain, which he wields and occasionally thrashes against the ground in nihilistic fury.

Knifedoutofexistence

Knifedoutofexistence

A common shortcoming of noise and power electronics shows is that the lineup will be packed out with acts all doing pretty much the same thing, which ultimately gets wearing long before the headliners take the stage. So, credit is definitely due in recognition of the diversity of the bill here.

Circuit Breaker, who’ve been supporting Harbinger Sound label-mates Consumer Electronics around Europe may have proven somewhat divisive amongst the audience members, but the Milton Keynes duo’s brand of dark synth pop, overlayed with screeds of murky guitar provided vital contrast. Wirth his eyes obscured by his hair, and an idiosyncratic style of enunciation which reminds me of Brian Ferry (think the footage of Roxy Music performing ‘Virginia Plain’ on TOTP), I find myself spending much of the set looking at the singer’s teeth. Musically, they’re more like a guitarier, gothier Gary Numan.

Circuit Breaker

Circuit Breaker

Sarah Froelich – aka Sarah Best – has very nice teeth. She also has some serious lung capacity, and opens both her lungs and mouth wide to vent streams of lyrical abrasion. Flipping in a blink of an eye between sultry poses and a serene expression to raging banshee, she presents a formidable and fearsome presence on the stage. Her whole body tenses as she hollers maniacally, giving her performance a ferocious physicality. Wild, unpredictable, dangerous, she’s the perfect foil to Philip Best’s splenetic tirades.

Having seen Best perform with Whitehouse on four occasions between 2003 and 2007, it’s reasonable to expect some crossover in his stage act, but while he still throws the occasional power pose and postures with parodic lasciviousness as he tweaks his nipples, it’s the differences between Consumer Electronics and Whitehouse which are most evident tonight.

Consumer Electronics 1

Consumer Electronics

First and foremost, the thudding beats which drive many of the tracks mark a clear separation from the largely arrhythmic noise of the overlords of the Power Electronics genre. There’s a more overt sense of structure and trajectory to the compositions, and while there is noise, there’s also a greater diversity of texture, and a sense of restraint. More than anything, the sonic attack is used as a means of adding emphasis to the lyrical content, rather than something that buries it.

Best’s lyrics have a poetic quality. We’re not talking pretty pastoral vignettes or vogueish socio-political commentary with a hip-hop vibe, but nevertheless, this is not just some guy shouting obscenities in a blind, inarticulate rage. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find rage more articulately expressed, and on numerous occasions during the set, I felt like the Consumer Electronics live experience is in many respects a (brutal, vitriolic) spoken word performance, with the emphasis very much on performance, bolstered by beats and extraneous racket.

Russell Haswell’s contribution to the dynamic shouldn’t be undervalued, either, and his featuring in the current lineup brings new dimensions to the sound. Standing unassumingly at the back, and often nipping off stage, as he unleashes shards of sharp-edged analogue fire.

Consumer Electronics 2

Consumer Electronics

There are some tracks that go all-out on the assault – ‘Co-opted’ finds Best and Froelich duelling over the most ferocious delivery of the refrain ‘Cunts! Co-opted by cunts!’, but much of the set, culled largely from the two most recent albums, Estuary English and Dollhouse Songs, shows just how much Consumer Electronics have refined Power Electronics and the extent to which they explore nuance and contrast. Tonight, they’re nowhere near as loud as many Power Electronics acts, not least of all Whitehouse at their most explosive, but the impact of the set is truly immense.

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