A Haiku is a short, traditional Japanese poem. Modern Haiku can vary but typically they are three-line poems of seventeen syllables, divided 5, 7, 5. You may remember this one from school:

at the age old pond

a frog leaps into water

a deep resonance

Haiku often depict an element of nature, a moment of beauty or a poignant experience. I, however, find them much more hilarious when misappropriated to communicate swearing and sarcasm.

Tosca + Gilles Peterson + Jazzanova @ KOKO, 16th November 2013

Expectations for this occasion were extraordinarily high. Each of the three big names could have sold out the £20-a-ticket event on their own and the two creative masterminds that constitute Tosca were to perform in the UK for the first time ever. You could almost taste the anticipation in the air (though this might have been that the drinks were too hideously expensive to have the pleasure of tasting.)

So it was a shame that the event did not quite fulfil expectations.

In fairness, Dorfmeister and Huber laid down the electronic law. They had all the chemistry and dexterity of dons who had been performing together for years, doing justice to their iconic down-tempo style. However, the accompanying vocalists – Earl Zinger and Cath Coffey – detracted from what would have otherwise been an exceptional set. Their timing left something to be desired; they hadn’t come far since  their practice sessions.

Next up was… a fifteen minute pause, apparently.

Thankfully Gilles Peterson, general practitioner of jazzy beats, was on top form and warmed things up a treat. His mixing was nigh on flawless and he looked like he was having an absolute ball, which was totally infectious.

The visual backdrop – a plethora of consistently morphing and evolving shapes, symbols and words – was also a sight to behold.

Had this not been Gilles Peterson, this would have looked a little too arrogant. Being Gilles Peterson, however…

Gilles’s track selection occupied the more avant-garde and bass-laden end of his notoriously vast repertoire. This did make the music slightly less accessible, but the set was still punctuated with just enough familiar greats to keep the audience eager-eared – Ninetoes’s ‘Pathfinder’ being one such highlight.

Cue: another fifteen minute pause.

But it was when Jazzanova’s Alex Barck stepped up for his DJ set that the proverbial tits went proverbially ‘up’. How the sound can have taken such a turn for the worse is a complete mystery, but think grimy bass muffling treble. And Ernesto’s accompanying vocal performance  It went down like a fart in a space suit and we left.

Was it the failure of the artists to live up to possibly unrealistic expectations of such a sparkling line up, was it the interruptions to the night’s flow, or had the sound guy’s hands melted after Gilles’s set?

Sadly, all that glistered was not gold.

P.S. Due to reliably unreliable trains, the Music is my Radar crew missed Anushka, who opened the night. We do not want to tar them with the same brush, because we rate this and this. Do you?

Beautiful Rewind – Four Tet, October 2013

Beautiful RewindSome things in life have the capacity to divide people hugely: either one ‘gets’ them, or one doesn’t. Some examples might be Bjork, Radiohead or why people think Rod Stewart is attractive. Four Tet’s latest album, Beautiful Rewind, is precisely one of these things. Not for the fainthearted, the album takes the listener on a magical mystery tour through some of the the darkest depths of dance music – touching on jungle, house and garage.
The introductory track ‘Gong’ functions as Hebden’s manifesto for the album as a whole. It is a chaotic compilation of various sounds, cuttings and moans. The business of the track could easily be the aural backdrop to film scene set in a hectic city or, say, the corridor to an underground club. On its own not a track to be played triumphantly to a group of eager-eared friends, but the way it skips frantically between different sounds and styles and beats aptly sets the scene for the rest of the album.
The restlessness of the opening track is instantly quelled by the more ambient ‘Parallel Jalebi’, the single that’s already been doing the rounds on BBC Radio 6. Its rhythmic vocal sample makes it instantly more accessible than its predecessor.
The rest of the album largely adheres to this pattern: hard, driving, relentless, chaotic tracks punctuated by episodes of ambiance. They work well in conjunction, each alleviating the other. Tracks such as ‘Kool FM’, ‘Buchla’ and ‘Aerial’ pay homage to bygone days of MC shout-outs and volatile dancefloor forms. Close to hard work for listeners who aren’t die-hard jungle-garage-house fans, ‘weren’t there’ or just don’t get the references. But the aggression of these tracks is perfectly alleviated by the more ambient tunes ‘Ba Teaches Yoga’ and ‘Unicorn’, which are less cluttered and more melodic. Hebden strikes a strange harmony in this concoction of forms and moods, but it works.
I say that Beautfiul Rewind does what it says on the tin. Though not strictly a concept album, there is a satisfyingly unifying quality in what seems to be the theme of the album: a nicely contained, if melancholic, rewind through the last twenty-odd years of British dance music. Simultaneously a mastery of conventional form and amorphous. All that lets the album down, if anything, is that it perhaps lacks a sense of progression. But then eschewing typical form, in both his releases and his sets, is what makes Kieran Hebden Four Tet.
Verdict: 7.5/10.