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LIVE REPORT: Diamond Version At Sonar
Angus Finlayson , June 20th, 2012 09:45

Alva Noto, Byetone and Atsuhiro Ito take on Barcelona

Wandering into Sonar's underground Complex stage on Saturday afternoon after three days of reasonably committed fun-seeking, my concerns are largely directed towards the cotton wool that seems to be filling my skull, threatening to expand and spill out of every orifice. What I don't realise is that the debut performance from Diamond Version, the duo of Raster-Noton heads Alva Noto and Byetone, is just the fix I need. It's a fact that's not immediately apparent: their set opens with a list of corporate slogans scanning across the projector screen behind the stage, the combination of erratic motion and nauseatingly optimistic content making the walls spin and the sweat bead on my forehead.

Soon, though, the duo kick their machines into gear, crafting initially unimposing grids of electronic percussion that seem to accrue savagery as they develop: heavily processed snares, churning basslines, blasts of lacerating digital noise. Over the top, Atsuhiro Ito wields his hefty lightsabre-like neon tube, extracting rhythmic blasts of mud and grit from it that weave themselves into the texture. At first it all feels rather straight: rhythmic, yes, but scientifically rather than joyously so. Gradually, though, a curiously Drexciyan kind of funk emerges - propulsion concealed in the mechanism - and before long the whole thing is compulsively danceable, the crowd swaying uniformly, hypnotically.

At points the duo pull back to let Ito take centre stage, and it's here that the full gnarliness of his instrument is revealed as arcs of rich, deliciously tactile, brain-boring noise are launched into the audience. Still, though, this is never just about achieving maximum abrasiveness, and always that technoid bounce returns. One track features a vocoded voice, crunched up into an ugly state but still oddly anodyne - what words can be discerned hint at those corporate slogans again. It's that intersection of sensations - stern confrontation, yes, but also infectious funk and a layer of mischievous irony - that keeps things interesting for the full hour. Just briefly, the blazing Barcelona sunshine outside is forgotten, and the concrete-walled venue reverberates to the tones of something altogether nastier.