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coverpic flag England - Full Moon 95 - 07/02/04

Manitoba + Four Tet
Corner Hotel, Richmond, Melbourne, AUS 11.06.04

Live electronica doesn't have the visceral thrill of rock music: there's no connection between what's happening on stage and what you feel when the bleeps and quakes come rampaging out of the speakers. There's no sweat from the performers; no kinetic connection (kinnection?!). It takes just the click of a mouse to send a terrifying loop out to wreak havoc amongst an expectant crowd; the whole process feels wrong.

And so it was for Kieran Hebden - Four Tet. He could have played songs from his albums perfectly using his two laptops and I would still be cynical. Instead he wove remnants from beautifully crafted songs such as "Glue of the World" and then gave them an almighty roughing up by sending chaotic blasts of noise squealing over the top. Brett, my wife's brother, couldn't understand why he couldn't hold a beat and develop the songs. Just as the tracks started to get good, they'd dissolve into screams and bleeps, or ratchet in tempo before cutting into hacked-up breakbeats. I'm all for experimentation - if it's listenable - but I had to concede that Hebden's decision to give us the barest glimpses of his lovely music behind an angular barrier of knob-twiddled scree was ill-advised. I'd rather listen to the albums (see our review of Rounds).

Dan Snaith, however, has got the right idea. No doubt turned off from playing carefully-constructed electronica on his Start Breaking My Heart debut - which, a couple of years since release, already sounds horribly dated - he's launched forth under the same Manitoba guise as a purveyor of a very different and altogether more satisfying sonic meal. Up In Flames combines some deliciously inventive live beats with fog-thick psychedelic production that melds organs, guitars and voices into an effects-laden cloud of gorgeousness.

Rather than fuck around with the pre-existing tracks on laptops, Snaith has wisely set up a more rock-oriented live show that kicks some serious ass. Twin drumkits, guitars, keyboards, glockenspiel, recorder and melodica were played with ferocious energy and joy by Snaith and his two animal-masked cohorts. Backed up by lovely colourful projections of galloping toy horses, dancing aliens and kaleidoscopic faces, tracks such as "Bijou" and "Jacknuggeted" were leant a hallucinogenic intensity that really elated the crowd.

A rainbow-amalgam of Circulatory System's multi-instrumental ecstasy and My Bloody Valentine's drony intensity, Manitoba simply ripped it up live. Well worth a dose if you get the chance.

Copyright © 2004 Tim Clarke e-mail address

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