Live: Cut Hands + Container + Blood Music + Black Amiga @ The Island in Bristol, 22/11/2013

There’s already a sense of imposition when I walk into The Island tonight; a sensation of being squeezed inward by the dense brickwork and low ceilings, of being penned in by the darkness and the walls that feel as though they’re jostling me on either side. As it later transpires, the line up have been expertly chosen to reawaken the more intimidating and enveloping aspects of the architecture, sonically reprising the venue’s ex-function as the subterranean cells of a police station – when bass is sent skidding up the walls (which, no surprises, happens frequently this evening), it collapses down on top of me like a vibratory gavel, pressing onto my lungs so that my breaths come in small inhalation snatches.

Black Amiga then: production line smack, junkyard belch. A dull, grey girder of rhythm batters forward, often laced in a dirty, factory-born sack of projectile grit. There’s something ecstatically tribal about the first half of the set – like a congregation of industrial processes immersed in transcendental worship – while second half breaks free of its steel chassis and ascends into a glitzier thump, fit with swoops of laser synthesiser that sound like stars hurtling past. Meanwhile, washed out projections flicker past like a CCTV system pointed at the mind’s grubby, orificial scum: grainy human figures, tendrils in seizure, tar dripping from hands.

Later on, Blood Music sound as though they’re pummelling the air from the other side of an organic membrane. A sauna mist of analogue electronics thickens until it’s glutinous enough to choke on, while a loose and lively punch of tom drums form grooves and perforations in the surface; small holes at first, but they grow as the synthesiser textures begin to develop horrible serrated surfaces. Eventually the whole frame starts to capsize and allows the gross figure of Blood Music to stumble through the din, dry-heaving space debris and analogue bile all over the place.

The forces of pressure are promptly reversed for Container, who ceases all attempts to beat down the walls and instead hauls everything further inward, making The Island feel like the battery cage that it is. All excess is evaporated away – mud turns to concrete as the textures compact and double over toward a singularity; the music forms a pure, disgusting onward drive that makes me feel filthy and possessed, with bodies sent into spasm and skeletal ricochet by the seething high-speed throb that demands as such. It’s like a captive animal crashing against the sides of a steel crate; not in an attempt to break free, but in a perverse celebration of its own confinement.

Suddenly, the walls that loom around me dissolve into insignificance. Cut Hands compels me into movement and gives me no conscious control over it – drums puppeteer my muscles and send me into violent sways and vibrations, assured and yet floating free. Bennett’s rhythms predominantly have nothing central to cling to – the downbeat disappears into an ecstatic domino cascade of skin and cymbal, teeming with physicality while paradoxically inducing a bodily revocation in its ceaselessness. Occasionally, everything miraculously aligns and a techno 4/4 emerges from nowhere, sending the audience into a subconscious co-ordination for just a moment. It’s but a tease. I’ve only just registered the sudden alignment and I’m already spinning out of control again, resuming my place in a giddy sea of euphoria and detachment.

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