The two-man outfit of Elite Barbarian combined bass guitar, synths and electronic beats to good effect to kick off the night at Corsica Studios. Their first piece was undoubtedly the strongest, with the bass processed into some sort of erratic wavering buzz saw that lurched over three simple chords, gathering texture and volume all the while. It’s when their sound was allowed to settle and loop like this that they captivated me most – some of their later ideas felt as though they might have benefited from being drawn out and left to sink in, but their showing was impressive nonetheless.
Philip Jeck’s set started as vast glacial caverns and gloops of processed metallic resonance, with deliberately-teased crackle out of loose jack leads and of course, the endless crumble and hiss of the record player. It was very much what I expected in these early stages, with the same mixture of warm ambience and disintegrating relics of sound samples found on his recorded output. What I didn’t expect was the introduction of a spiky and aggressive bass guitar distortion that briefly took the music to louder, more direct territory – the gentle nostalgia of the first few minutes became swamped by bright and fierce noise, eased in gradually until it pretty much consumed the entire mix. The transition of atmosphere was well worked and caught me off guard without feeling unnatural or out of character, exposing a side of Jeck that avid fans are probably familiar with, but one that the less acquainted such as myself were pleasantly surprised to see.
Oren Ambarchi was quick to follow with what was probably the best set I’ve seen from anyone this year. A devastating and relentless sub-bass rumble lay at the core of his 35 minutes on stage, anchoring the evil overtones which crept over in slithers and splutters of feedback, manipulated by an array of pedals scattered across the desk and floor. Ambarchi was effortless and clearly well-practised in his execution and guided the piece through shifting states of harmonics, abruptly cutting the bass out before slamming it down again like some sort of grimy black guillotine. It all passed quickly, but so intense was the experience that any longer may have turned out to be excessive. As it was, this was astounding stuff.