October 30, 2005

Live Review: Four Tet, Jamie Lidell, and Koushik, The Parish, Austin, Texas, Saturday, October 8, 2005

On a weekend in which I had absolutely nothing else to do, this show was an absolute godsend. Opening act Koushik had already begun his set by the time I walked into the Parish. I was hoping that the Canadian producer would showcase the original material on his debut album Be With. The songs on Be With pit dirty funk against psychedelic pop, with Koushik’s breathy, soothing voice placed front and center. In other words, it’s the album that Caribou’s The Milk of Human Kindness should’ve been. The fact that Koushik has contributed vocals to earlier Manitoba/Caribou tracks only makes the comparison more apt. Unfortunately, Koushik merely gave us an hour-long DJ set. He did spin a number of interesting rare-groove tracks (and he deserves special props for throwing a Poor Righteous Teachers jam in the middle), but I still would’ve rather heard him play his own stuff.

However, the second act, Jamie Lidell, was worth the price of admission alone! I tried to turn some of my friends on to his music, and it received a lukewarm response. This website’s very own editor sad that one of his songs sounded like “bad house music.” (Such opinions have changed slightly--ed.) If he saw the set that I saw Jamie play last night, he’d have changed his tune. The short version of Lidell’s story is that he’s a British IDM producer who has decided to step out from behind the boards as a blue-eyed soul singer. In theory, crossing over from an arguably soulless genre to make R&B sounds like a bad idea. Lidell makes it work, though. With a laptop, a mixer and a table of gadgets, he created backing tracks by looping and processing his own beat boxing. Once he was finished doing that, he walked away from the board and SANG HIS ASS OFF. He took the audience to outer space, and then he took them to CHUUCH (yes, that spelling is on purpose). He had a charmingly nerdy stage presence, jumping and writhing around the stage with a wide smile on his face. The second half of his set was plagued by equipment failures, but even that couldn’t stop him from wrecking shop. He drafted a teenager from the audience to beat box for him while he sang “A Little Bit More.” He closed his set with an acapella rendition of the title track from his latest album Multiply. He tried to get the audience to sing along with him on the chorus, only to laugh upon realizing that they weren’t that familiar with his music yet. Judging from the number of people that rushed to the merchandise table after his set, that won’t happen the next time he comes to Austin.

The technical difficulties that Lidell had to endure were NOTHING compared to the fiasco that happened at the beginning of Four Tet’s set. The power supply that Four Tet mastermind Kieran Hebden brought with him keep shutting off at random moments (I‘m assuming that it was because of a lack of functional foreign-to-domestic socket converters), and it took nearly a half-hour for the sound crew to find one that actually worked. One audience member got enraged and started shouting at the stage: “This is ridiculous! You guys should’ve had a contingency plan! This guy is the Beatles of electronic music! What the hell is going on??!?” I hesitate to give Kieran’s music that much praise. I will say, though, that what was originally supposed to be a side project away from his post-rock band Fridge has turned into an IDM field, thanks to a steady stream of increasingly brilliant albums. I assumed that once Hebden’s technical difficulties got sorted out, he would respond with a mighty set that vindicated the wait.

Unfortunately, my assumption was proven wrong. Kieran may be good at creating tracks, but he’s terrible at mixing or rejiggering them in real time. His idea of making the live renditions of his songs sound different from the recorded versions is to throw all of the instruments out of sync with each other and scatter a bunch of noise on top. At some points, it sounded like he was just pressing random buttons to see what would happen to the music. As soon as the music coalesced into a groove, he would do something to completely disrupt it. When Kid 606 does this, the results are often thrilling; when Kieran does this, it’s merely irritating. A drunk woman walked up to the stage, flipped him the bird and repeatedly shouted, “THIS SH*T SUCKS!” She had to be escorted out of the club by two of her friends. Shortly thereafter, Kieran‘s mixing and processing got much better, and we were treated to three or four great songs from his latest album Everything Ecstatic. By then, though, it was too little, too late: almost half of the crowd had already walked out. In short, while I will continue to buy everything Four Tet puts out, I don’t plan on paying to see him live ever again. BRING BACK FRIDGE!

--Sean Padilla

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