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LIVE REPORT: Demdike Stare
Tristan Bath , November 11th, 2014 17:27

Tristan Bath reports from Cafe Oto in London. Photo with thanks to Scanner

Demdike Stare are pretty much peerless right now. They've got several incredible releases in the bag, and a unique, truly original approach: reconstituting mysterious found sounds, unearthed from the labyrinthian depths of the world's vinyl bargain basements, and crafting them into inescapable powerful psychedelic soundscapes. This isn't rainbow colours and tie-dyed shirts though; this is painted in deeply gothic monochrome; murky snapshots from the worst possible type of bad acid trip.

Their last gigantic full length was 2012's epic Elemental, which travelled to such intensely hopeless depths during its droning second half as to leave the listener wondering if they'd ever escape from the Manchester duo's spell. But the more recent Test Pressing series of vinyl singles (dropped during the great "jungle revival" of 2013) saw the pair explore noisier energetic rhythms, tinted with something of that bacchanal 90s club music. That year, the duo also provided a live soundtrack for odd 1922 Danish part-doc, part-horror movie Häxan: Witchcraft Through The Ages at the BFI's gothic season last December, succumbing (or perhaps living up) to the endless comparison that have made between their unidentifiable clatter and retro horror movie scores. As it is, there's little expectation as to what we're about what to see heading into East London's Cafe Oto. Will I want to dance, cry, or scream?

From the get-go, it's too quiet, and the visuals sharply disappoint. The pair are sitting at a table, with a projection going up right behind them, and it takes several moments for the audience to realise this is the show. Bassy rumblings gradually formulate a cohesive structure, and punctuated irregular beats stutter from bar to bar in a slowly evolving rhythm. The projections amount to little more than the usual snapshot imagery of eyeballs and colours, and murky nightmarish imagery, which is very subtly flashing and travelling in time with the pair's music. Very subtly though - almost indiscernibly - and this is meant to be an 'audiovisual show'.

The soundscapes unwind with the duo's usual languid energy, and troublingly never quite hit a definitive and strong cadence. It would all probably work, unleashing the duo's usually powerful black magic on to a beguiled audience, but the volume is embarrassingly low. To boot, neither member of Demdike Stare seem to be that taken with their own sounds. These aren't the deathly serious musical alchemists portrayed in their the Wire magazine cover feature last year–these guys are bantering during their set like DJs at a school disco. And ultimately, it almost comes across as such. The tension and stark inescapable atmospheres that make Demdike Stare's albums quite so compelling is totally drained from this lethargic set.

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