Live at Mixing Tin on Tuesday, 1st May 2007
I arrived at the Mixing Tin just as Bracken were starting their set. Coming down the stairs I could already feel the Anticon associated bass thrumming up to meet me. As I wander in the band are laying down a mix of pathos filled melodies and broken beats. At times Bracken founder Chris Adams' vocals sound almost like the scary apocalyptic tones of Serj Tankian (of System fame), but not in the way you might imagine...
The first track (I heard) is a constantly changing chimera of a song (as Bracken prove to be as a musical entity as well, but I'm getting ahead of myself) going from crunching drum breaks to rhythmic vocal chanting, which at some point according to my scrawled notes sounded "Like a fucking dirge pounding to life". From the intense way this has been forced onto the paper this can only be a good thing.
Bracken move into more pop territory with the second (my second) track, early nineties influenced ambient chords and splashy big beat cymbals make for a relaxing shift. This turns into a kind of weird electro ballad which I find myself liking, but secretly wondering whether I should.
At some point during this gig Adams treats the crowd to some kind of shorts anecdote which I only caught the end of, but judging from the muted response I don't think it was one for the book. The set moves on, incorporating more and more of the golden period of electronica - I can here Orbital influences going on in the music, and the occasional bit of Chemical Brothers inspired big beatery which is no bad thing. There are occasions when the lyrics seem a little superfluous, but on the whole the medley of alternative rock infused vocal melodies and classic beat filled electro action makes for an interesting mix.
The last track Bracken play is a discordantly minimal affair initially, with some tribal shout singing over a pipe/drum combo. It reminds a bit of fighting Goro in Mortal Kombat. The band slowly build up to a drum and bass tinged explosions which burns out into pulsing bass, which vibrates my brain as it too fades out.
On the whole the Bracken set was an interesting blend of ideas from all areas of music, caged by electronic instruments. My only problem I suppose is that the ideas at times were a little too unformed; and while most of the set gelled well, there was the odd jarring moment.
I think Chris Adams sums the band up best himself:
"Basically, with Bracken, a lot of square pegs end up being forced into round holes until ultimately I come up with something new and unexpected."
Boom Bip began, as most classic electronic artists, from the humblest of beginnings; messing around with samples and loops from the music they love. As Bryan Hollan appears to the packed Mixing Tin, it makes me wonder why I work so hard (alright, scratch 'so hard', the work part is true) instead of doing the same. The crowd meld into a sweaty sponge in front of the 'stage', and the bar comes alive to the crazy synth/drum opener.
As a slight aside, any hard core Boom Bip fans please forgive my lack of track referencing by name - my illegitimate tape copies of Boom Bip material were not made by someone as anally retentive as myself - it annoys me as much as it annoys you so if you know the set list bang it on site below.
Anyway, I'm standing at the back listening to the awesome saw like build up, which sound like a BBC computer having an acid flashback. Pounding four on the floor beats flood the bar, and continue to provide the metronomic heartbeat for the whole set. Bass undulates like a bloated electric snake over punchy, gated drums. Riffs reminiscent of fellow new wave electro band Hot Chip are in evidence here and there in amongst the layers of sound. The track climaxes with a Green Album (Orbital) esque, cowbell fuelled crescendo and much cheering.
Boom Bip manage to capture live the sound of classic electronic artists (this takes me back to my youth in friends bedrooms, stoned and listening to Underworld, Leftfield and Orbital non stop) whilst firmly stamping their own identity on the music. Again bizarre notes "...like if Daft Punk seduced Alison Goldfrapp in some kind of sex disco"; there's a definite American tinge to Boom Bip, that slightly sleazy glamour that comes through in the rowdier tracks, but they also enjoy the amazing subtlety of ambient artists like The Orb or Boards of Canada.
The set pumps on, with some more French feel, bringing to mind the funky magic of early Daft Punk. Do not make the mistake of thinking Boom Bip are in any way derivative however, these are just the reminiscent thoughts of someone who was only there for the electronic hangover of the mid nineties, rather than the ecstasy of the late eighties/early nineties Hacienda period.
The set is turning into a mad cap, body pop inducing extravaganza. If there were more room I have no doubt that every single person in the bar would be pogoing in unison, as it is we don't want to shake the Tin to pieces (this doesn't stop the front row moving like a human graphic eq in front of Boom Bip).
The set gets a bit dirtier mid way, with Massive Attack esque percussion and a much more raw edge. Think Middle of Nowhere blended into a huge pile of scrap metal sounds and re-constructed into a monster. In a good way. The industrial atmosphere continues with circular saw sounds panning across huge sheet metal bass. The wailing, distorted vocal provides a counterpoint to the brutal drum filled body of the track.
The set carries on in this fashion; pure gonzo dance. Boom Bip are a knowingly retrospective musical creature, but this does not stop them pushing forward to combine the classic sounds and sample of electronica and hip hop into something entirely new. There is at times a robotic genius to their music, shifting from breaks, to disco, to funk and much more. You can see why Boom Bip have been head hunted by the Label behind the likes of Aphex Twin, Squarepusher et al.
Throughout the set I hear flashes of the euphoria that only truly great music can inspire. Don't get me wrong, if the love of repetition is not on you, and 'dance' is a dirty word to you, then you will not like Boom Bip. The only criticism I can level at them however is that the set was in places gratuitous in its length - however I can forgive this, what with it being the last night of the tour - it just would've been good to have some room to move.
After an ambient break somewhere mid set, Boom Bip dive straight back in to the intense rhythm that sustained them earlier. One section in particular has a melody and sound surprisingly reminiscent of the 'Disintegration' period Cure. The live band set up creates an ever changing canvas of percussion, choral melody, mellifluous bass and almost constantly pounding drums. This mix creates such a range of sounds it is hard to describe without belittling comparisons to the forefathers of electronica. Boom Bip have managed to capture both a subtlety and brash confidence which gives them a wide appeal.
With a cheeky encore to wind up the set, and European tour, Boom Bip give us a burnished, big beat farewell, filled with the same lazy beauty as Chico's Groove. Reverberant synth and chiming percussion lead us out. Though I am preaching to the converted slightly, it always seems to be the way with electronica; those who are looking for that illusive 'real music' will not be impressed, however if you're not ashamed of your love of dance, you will find a lot to like about Boom Bip. With a nod to their predecessors they are firmly marching forward to the beat of the electronic drum.