Sunday, 6 November 2011

Review: The Glitch Mob at Spectrum Bass Bomber, Electric Brixton, 5 November 2011

Comprising three of the most talented early innovators of West Coast glitch hop - Ed Ma (edIT), Josh Mayer (Ooah / Of Porcelin / PANTyRAiD) and Justin Boreta (NastyWays / Slidecamp) - The Glitch Mob have done for their music in the US what Benga and Skream have achieved for dubstep in the UK.

The timeline is fairly similar too. edIT's first release on Planet Mu in 2004, Crying Over Pros For No Reason, is one of the earliest examples of the genre that now not only saturates the West Coast of Canada and America, but has followers across Europe, Australia, South Africa and beyond.

2007 was probably the year that saw the scene begin to consolidate itself, with a second album from edIT, a classic release from Bassnectar, glitch compilations on Muti Music and Interchill, and the first tunes from Ooah and Boreta. In the Bay Area and LA, edIT, Ooah, Boreta and co-founder Kraddy found themselves touring together to promote their sound.

A string of genre-defining remixes as The Glitch Mob followed, freely shared through their website, and collated in 2009's Crush Mode mixtape. The music had all the bounce of the most beat focused hip-hop, all the bombast of rock, and a tendency towards the epic, layered with g-funk synths and guitar crunches. Last year the departure of Kraddy foreshadowed the release of the collective's first self penned album, Drink the Sea.

The album marked a change. It was geared towards live shows rather than record bags, with pounding drums and a stadium feel. As a DJ, I was disappointed an found many of the tracks to be too similar, but Drink the Sea is loved by many and found the Mob a lot of new fans. Although I couldn't make it to their UK album launch at Koko and January 2011 tour, I heard reports of the live show: three guys fiddling with laptops, that didn't fulfill the promise of the epic music.

Which brings us to Spectrum's Bass Bomber at Electric Brixton last night, the second UK date on an epic European Tour for the Mob.

When we arrived, Pete Jordan was playing a banging bass set that just about covered all bases imaginable. In front of him sat three sets of Ableton controllers, touch screens and electric drums, all controls facing towards the audience. Where they going to be turned around? They surely wouldn't play with their backs to us?

As the edIT led the Mob onstage, black shirts, white ties, in a cloud of smoke, crowd chanting, the trio leaned over from behind their kit, still facing the audience, to begin sequencing and playing touch-pad synths and effects in full view. This was going to be a live show.

With the "put your hands in the air" sample of the opening track, things had the instant feeling of a stadium rock concert. As hundreds of live hand claps began to punctuate the beats, I couldn't help but feel a tingle up my spine.

While some might question the virtuosity of playing patterns on pre-programmed touch pads, tracks like 'Fortune Days' soon began to really show off edIT and Oaah's deft finger-work, trained through years of vinyl teasing. Meanwhile Boreta was a quiet presence on the left, like the rhythm guitarist of the group, constantly cuing and tweaking. The drums got a frequent battering from all three, adding a strong dynamic to their movement on stage.

The stand out tracks were the classic remixes 'Red Dress On', 'Monday' and 'West Coast Rocks', which really got the whole place popping like it was New Year's Eve. It also gradually became apparent that the 'same sounding' feel of the album tracks actually held the live set together as a thematic progression.

The set culminated in an encore opening with the suitably epic 'Drive it like you stole it' and it was another cover, The White Stripes 'Seven Nation Army' dedicated to all the "filthy fucking bass lovers out there" that wrapped things up in triumphant style, to a sea of arm, people sitting on each others shoulders and double-time clapping. The Mob's sound is so warm and all encompassing that I don't think anyone really wanted it to end.

On the basis of last night's performance, The Glitch Mob have successful overcome any criticisms leveled at their live show and are all set to be the melodic stadium-rock pin-ups of the glitch-hop world. The real strength of their achievement for me, though, is that unlike Magnetic Man they've managed to do this without compromising an almost entirely instrumental sound.

Having finally understood the context of the Drink the Sea, I'm now looking forward to seeing where they go with the next album.

Check out this interview with Ooah and The Glitch Mob's latest mixtape here:
  More Voltage by The Glitch Mob

Full props to Pete Jordan and the Spectrum crew for getting the Mob over here (twice now!). I'd love to see more US acts brought over next year (ill.Gates, Love and Light, Mim0Sa Stephan Jacobs) with support from UK talent like Zen Death Squad, KrossBow, Inaudible, Bobby Tank or William Breakspear. If you're with me, like this!

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