| Sound

Venetian Snares – XOYO

Ecstatic breaks and camaraderie, Venetian Snares rocks London. XOYO, Old Street, 23/2/11

Ecstatic breaks and camaraderie, Venetian Snares rocks London.

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
– William Shakespeare (Henry V)

Struggling with an insane hangover the prospect of an evening of drill and bass was already causing palpitations. BBC documentaries had been watched and I now had a somewhat academic understanding of the particularities of the rare book trade.  The duvet was up, the lights were low and somewhere in the near distance a kettle boiled over. The world outside seemed thoroughly malevolent, both judge and jury to the excesses done by someone who looked like me but whose rationale I can’t recall. Still I’d made plans and shakily I breached myself from the bed and into the street.

XOYO is a newish venue, situated outside Old Street station and launched late last year. I imagined this was going to be yet another electronic music night, replete with the usual clichéd group of flannel wearing hipsters, paraphrasing their blogs, tutting at each other and casting disparaging glances at whomever sequested an audience from these adolescent royals of taste.  But not this night.

Wandering into XOYO I’ve was immediately struck with the niceness of the security, staff and punters. Everyone seemed primed for a special evening and happy conversations quickly sprang up amongst strangers; what’s your favourite Venetian Snares album? Do you think he’s become a bit stock and boring? Do you think his last album seems a bit more of a rehash than a step forward? Has he been overtaken by other artists? Possibly valid questions but in the end all talk came back to two inalienable points. Venetian Snares has a massive canon of brutally beautiful music and no one would rather be anywhere else.

iTAL Tek performed a fantastic set of tonal dubstep and breaks, being not massively familiar with his recorded output it’s hard to know how much he actually he reworks the tunes on the night, but one thing is clear.  He can really move a crowd.  Teasing bass bombs and heavy rhythms, iTAL Tek kicked ass. Dubstep can be pretty one dimensional but it’s testament to his artistry that he brings out a variety of different moods and atmosphere’s while moving a set from point to point. Venetian Snares fans are pretty die hard but he left the stage to a strong round of cheers and applause.  Respect where it’s due, iTAL Tek is an act to watch very closely in future.

Aaron Funk (Venetian Snares) came to stage to a massive roar from the crowd. Looking around the intense faces bobbing expectantly to his electronic preamble it was clear that the sober and straight crowd wanted to get properly fucked up. As the first barrage of blast beats and bass hit, the capacity crowd literally exploded. A yawning mosh pit swallowed everyone as beautiful Eastern European girls smashed gleefully into grinning metal heads, flat capped breakbeat connoisseurs and hungover journalists. Despite the intense violence the mood wasn’t aggressive, fallen people were immediately picked up and patted on the back, blazing eyes meeting through epileptic arms echoing innumerous high fives and ‘hell yeahs’. That elusive spirit of near religious camaraderie and wild abandon that marks truly fantastic gigs possessed and pushed the fans to the limit of exhaustion from the very start and continued unabated till the end.

Venetian Snares isn’t widely renowned for his breakneck sense of timing or ability to juggle mixes but he skilfully defies a lot of the drum and bass clichés of ebb and flow by relentlessly mixing his brutal polyrhythms almost against each other. This creates pockets of swing that actively attack the audience’s sense of timing, meaning that the audience has to effectively dance to 8ths (and in some cases 16ths) on tracks that seem to average around 180bpm. Hectic stuff.

15 minutes in, everyone was drenched with the sweat that fell steadily from the ceiling as temperatures soared. The full rush of the brutal drum and bass set varied as it dropped back to more syncopated sections, characterised by Aaron’s use of tracks with more unusual time signatures, only to continue into piledriving Gabba Techno phrases before tilting onward into light speed jungle.

Compared to other shows, Venetian Snares performed more of a greatest hits set than the barrages of angry noise that were common at Electrowerkz concerts. Crowd favourites from Rossz csillag alatt született, Chocolate Wheelchair, Detrimentalist albums were met with cheers, as people jumped through the air, at once moshing metal style and giving drum and bass hand signs in a sense encapsulating Funk’s debt to both genres. However, the inclusion, late in the set, of Sajtban and then the doomcore epic Skelechairs had people crying in ecstasy as they raved hard with and against each other.

Battered, sodden and elated the set came to a close with some gratuitous turntablism as Aaron spun and distorted short-cut samples into a long industrial outro before walking off perfunctorily. It seemed as though there had been some technical difficulties about halfway through the set, a regular annoyance that previously I’ve witnessed Aaron use as a catalyst for angry brutality towards, fallback speakers, mixers, cables and promoters but mostly just channelled through the music. I’m not sure if technical difficulties are something that Aaron needs to give a great Venetian Snares performance but in all cases it seems to work.

The sound at XOYO was near perfect, an absolute necessity for a Venetian Snares concert, where split second details and tight breaks would get lost on lesser systems. Moreover, despite the intense volume my ears weren’t painfully ringing at the end of the night, if only the same could be said of my legs.

Filtering out into the night, people hugged those they’d been dancing with, and broad smiles beamed from every face.  A long haired Meshuggah fan I’d seen earlier jumping and flailing around next to me, stumbled tired toward the tube shaking his head emptily. ‘Good concert?’ I asked him, smiling. He replied ‘I don’t know. I don’t know what to do now. After that what makes sense? What can I possibly ever listen to after this? I’m done…’


Supports: iTAL Tek, Throwing Snow Dj Set
XOYO, Old Street, 23/2/11
Promoted by Goddontlikeit


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