Sunday, 17 October 2010

Live Review: Enfant Bastard, The Leg, Bit Face, Wounded Knee @ Roxy Art House, 2 October

Enfant Bastard

The Roxy’s underground cavern is the perfect setting for an Enfant Bastard EP launch. Decked out like an amphetamine freak’s rave pit, the poker hot lighting seared against the room’s blackened curtains gives tonight a distinctly claustrophobic, almost suffocating, edge.

Before Enfant makes his entrance there’s a notable undercard of experimental dignitaries to rouse the incumbents of this increasingly space-less venue. First up is enigmatic throatsmith Wounded Knee, otherwise known as Drew Wright, with his gut-born brand of loop pedalled a capella .

With a sound that’s impossible to pin down, Wright tongues his way around a 15 minute skit of brogue-stained intonation that teases out compelling African rhythms. Calling for a "revolution of everyday life", it’s not Wounded Knee at his most politically ferocious, but the thick canopy of reverberating chant still lures the crowd in like salivating moths to a burn of neon light.

The discordant nature of tonight’s roll-call is underlined by Bit Face’s appearance on stage. This one-woman tide of chip-tune bedlam batters away the hypnotic state woven by Wounded Knee; lobotomising the crowd with a surge of abrasive techno that rattles the rafters of the Roxy's shellshocked hall.

It’s high–octane, grey matter screwing stuff, that has limbs thwacking to electro palpitations and the ring of Nintendo-ised chimes. At times it’s unmistakably derivative, with a couple of numbers flying worryingly close to the ‘big box, little box’ bones of Hard House, but by the time the Glasgow girl downs her Gameboy the boom of applause is glowing testament to her well-honed craft.

Next to the floor is local noise mongers The Leg (a last minute replacement for Kylie Minoise), who come out fighting as a two-piece cauldron of drum and guitar. Wielding their motoring anti-song racket, the duo are at full throttle from the off, clanging their way through two-minute long numbers that jar their way into the lugholes without restrain.

But The Leg’s main failing has always been consistent inconsistency and it’s the lack of a killer punch that, ultimately, brings down tonight’s set. The opening brace’s red raw throb flows into a stodgy middle section that lacks any cohesion and smacks of try-hardy avant-gardism. Despite being resuscitated by a final fling of abrasive, throat-slitting clatter it’s difficult to shake the feeling that this really should have been something so much more.

With lights down low, Cameron Watt arrives on stage in typically low key fashion. Under the guise of his electro-bending moniker Enfant Bastard, Watt cuts a mysterious figure; a guarded presence that embodies the polarising factions of the Auld Reekie scene. Yet, as if in spite of his awkward reputation, he’s in sprightly, almost gregarious, mood here tonight as he reels out small talk to the waiting masses.

Plugging his latest release on SL Records, the regally entitled 'Master Dude', Watt steps slowly into the set; almost afraid to interfere with his circuitry of bleep-inducing gadgets. But from the moment he strikes a warning shot of ‘I f***ing hate you’ into the Roxy’s airpspace, mayhem descends. Enfant Bastard has arrived.

The gargantuan blasts of scattergun electronica shooting from the speakers splinter like shrapnel in the eardrums. If electro-shock is Watt’s intention, then he does it with the precision of a psychiatric doctor, neurologically assaulting the crowd with wave after wave of hyperactive, decibel-frothing cuts. Not that those at the front care - they’ve already submitted to the electronic onslaught.

Running the gamut between rumbling Drum ‘n’ Bass and epileptic Happy Hardcore, this splice and dice masterclass is an exhilarating thrill to ride. Every beat feels insistent, as if compelling feet to cut loose, while Watt, now wholly ingrained in the room’s euphoria, feeds the frenzy with arms aloft and fists-pumping the air. It’s almost ridiculous to say it, but this feels more like clubland than the efforts of an enigmatic experimentalist.

How this autobahn atmosphere transfers to record is anyone’s guess. But tonight that really doesn’t matter. Cameron Watt is no longer making music for chins to be stroked; this is music that demands to be danced to. And the funny thing is, you know he loves it.

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