Tuesday, April 05, 2016
Consumer Electronics - Wharf Chambers 04/04/2016
Leeds, Wharf Chambers, Monday, 4th April, 2016.
There was a time when the mere thought of driving to a gig in Leeds passed through my brain in nanoseconds. Drive? And come home sober? Not have a drink? Like really not have a drink? And then one day I went to a gig in Leeds in the car and it wasn’t actually that bad. In fact I even preferred it. So now I go to lots of gigs in Leeds in the car. It saves me £20 in taxi fares and no hangovers. And if I go to a gig in Leeds in the car and I get a parking spot outside the Wharf Chambers I can be home in little more than 20 minutes should the traffic lights and inner city Leeds ring road gods be on my side. Then there’s the bonus of listening to the radio. Something rather special about listening to late night radio in the car when you’re on your own. Radio 3 or 4 where they usually have something cerebral on; ‘Late Junction’ or ‘Hear and Now’ with their atonal modern classical and nose flute players from Azerbaijan.
Last night I encountered the writer WIlliam Fiennes telling an audience at the Wellcome Collection’s reading room of his experience of Crohn’s disease; an essay on the inflammation of the intestines, splashes of blood in the toilet bowl, the unpleasant world of fistulas, ulcers and stomas; that surgical procedure where you get to say hello to a bit of your bowel through a hole in your side. Fiennes used words like flatus, anus and shit and fantasized, in his anesthetic haze, of the nurse kissing the end of his bowel and inserting her fist into the stoma to massage his inner organs.
Phillip Best’s speaking voice sounds not dissimilar to that of William Fiennes. Maybe its the gig playing tricks on my mind but the ride home felt like a continuation of the gig. Consumer Electronics didn’t do an encore [maybe they did but I left soon after] but I got my own personal one in the car driving home. I wouldn’t have got that in a taxi.
Augmented by Russell Haswell and Sarah Froelich Consumer Electronics have emerged as something of a hot ticket with the usual five bald heads and the bloke behind the merch table now being augmented by the next generation of thrill seekers including women, something of which I heartily applaud. The mixed bag of old and young, male and female was a healthy one for a Monday night and although I bet no one went home singing the refrain from ‘Murder Your Masters’ I don’t doubt not one of them went home disappointed.
At the back end of an almost 30 date tour you’d think their voices would’ve burnt out by now but thats not the case. Froelich’s voice is as searing as a blow torch and the nearest thing you’re going to get to having weld spatter in your face at a gig. Its a phenomenal instrument and one you can only marvel at. If there’s a woman that can emit the word ‘fucking’ in song with any more venom than Froelich I want to meet her. But this is not all swearing and full on noise. Consumer Electronics have shifted gears in the last few years and are unrecognisable from previous incarnations. As Haswell noted before the gig, ‘this isn’t Industrial or Power Electronics’. I’d call it pop music. Phillip Best’s pop music for a supposedly proud nation thats nothing but a thin skin covering a mass of rotting flesh. Suck it buttercup.
Best opens his shirt to squeeze his tit but the offer to the audience isn’t coming. He shakes his fist, he sings and rants off mic genuinely lost in the moment. ‘Let’s get fucked up’ he says before we head off again into the dystopian distance. Haswell leaves his post to check out the sound and deems it not loud enough and the already considerable volume is inched even further. Back at his post his gaze never leaves his equipment. There a genuine chilling moments too especially when Best intones the last verses of ‘Colour Climax’
This is it
The bare life
It feels like love
Its a shifting set with Froelich and Best sharing singing duties, at times duetting in some twisted Eurovision Song Contest way. They move through gears that Consumer Electronics haven’t used before with pounding beats, high end synth squeal and relative silence. Copies of Dollhouse Songs were seen to be shifting from the merch table. Always a good sign.
What went before has left me baffled. Circuit Breaker are the next big thing from Harbinger Sound but their take on late 70’s synth moan has me baffled. A duo with synth and synth guitar [I think] with a singer who looks like he’s doing his best with an ill fitting set of dentures. I heard his style described as ‘mannered’ which is being kind. I’d prefer strangled with the words appearing only after they’ve been pressed through is gums. The songs are plodding, depressing affairs all of which sound incredibly similar. They have their fans though, it’s just that I’m not one of them.
Knifedoutofexistence was one man, a chain, some distorted vocals and a disintegrating tape loop. I liked it.
And then I drove home.
William Fiennes - The Bowel