Friday the 13th: paradoxically, turned out to be a very lucky day for this gig reviewer. Blessed by the promise of a live audiovisual performance by the influential electronic duo Plaid, I sauntered over to Brudenell Social Club without the slightest idea of what to expect. Having obsessively devoured their ‘90s tunes under their affiliated Black Dog moniker, I found myself half-hoping that their new show will be a throwback to ‘90s IDM. I was, however, surprised to find out that this is a far-cry from the acidic electro of old, but rather a live rendition of their most recent album, Polymer.
The album itself is no spectacle, though the live environment is a different story. The setting: six thin, ominous screens placed equidistantly behind the stage (like a convergence of the monoliths from 2001: A Space Odyssey), blaring a perfectly-synchronised synaesthetic sequence of colours and shapes. The music: ultra high-definition sound, with a crisp stereo field and a bass emphasis to kill. The people: mostly in their forties, but evidently not without an undying love for the dance.
The band members have mastered the ever-prevalent ‘laptop stare’ that is so common in live electronic music today, but given that it’s Plaid, I find this charming, not underwhelming. Andy Turner and Ed Handley tinker with hardware, and are joined by electric violinist Mason Bee, who generates a seemingly endless series of inhuman wails from the thing. People are wavily gesturing to the music on the front row, spread-legged like mystical shamans. The track ‘Crown Shy’ is met with “what a fucking tune!”, repeatedly by a bespectacled bacchanal. I ignore the ‘no flash photography’ rule and used up the film on my polaroid to mark the moment in the eternal form it deserved.
Overall, the night turned out to be a turbulent sonic experience, and an eye-open example of how the use of bright coloured lights can transform a sonic electronic performance into a visual show.
Jude Iago James