Shigeto + Anchorsong – Live @ Electrowerkz
aaamusic | On 10, Feb 2014
Saturday 8th February, London
Electrowerkz is a seriously underused and under-appreciated venue. The dark, grungy club, with its random neon graffiti and metallic, mounted features, has a real industrial, Berlin vibe – and unlike East London basements, it manages to retain a gritty sense of intimacy while resisting claustrophobic stuffiness. Basically, it’s well structured, with a separate bar area and accessible stairs; may sound simple, but many London venues of this size shoot themselves in the foot by placing a tiny bar area inside the dancefloor area. Oh, and the sound system is pretty damn nice! All this must be why Michigan’s Shigeto is back at Electrowerkz for the second time within a year. But whereas last time he was the support act (for Kelpe’s album launch – review here…), tonight he is the main event.
First up, however, is Anchorsong for his first London show since moving back home to Tokyo. Regrettably, he is without the string players that accompanied him the last couple of times I saw him in April last year (supporting Clark/Daedelus and Portico Quartet ). Arguably, however, without the dominating classical element of his full live setup, Anchorsong’s versatility is given more room to breathe. As always, he creates all the music through live sampling and keys, and is a joy to watch, especially when programming the drum sequences. Each of his compositions touches on a different genre, but it is always rooted in intelligent house music; there is Krautrock, jittery Nintendo sounds, and bass-driven hip hop, to name but a few influences. Highlights, as always, come courtesy of the smile-inducing, funky house of ‘Darkrum’ and the operatic, liquid electronica of ‘Devil’s Clap’. Don’t be a stranger Anchorsong; London misses you.
Shigeto – aka Zach Shigeto Saginaw – is back in London in support of his excellent album, No Better Time Than Now, released last year. Whereas the album is a heady exploration of instrumental hip hop, often focusing on hypnotic soundscapes instead of accessible beats, his live show tonight is predictably heavier and more energetic. His dreamy, synth-heavy productions are cut with more bass via his mixing equipment, and when he takes to his kit to provide live drumming the music is taken to another level. However, Shigeto initially holds off sitting down at his drums in order to set the tone with some Brainfeeder-esque experimental hip hop beats, as well as some more subtle house leanings that were absent from his last set here.
Frustratingly – well, more so for Shigeto, who is visibly stressed out – the sound cuts out not once but twice in the first half, a problem he later took to Twitter to blame on “crashing sound cards”. But no one in attendance really cares; sure, everyone adores his music (including myself), but (like me) are essentially here to see him drum. And boy, does he deliver. He’s an extremely adaptable drummer (highlighted by some fabulous word music patterns), and rather than fleshing out each track with flashy flourishes, he sensibly chooses to remain solidly rhythmic. I’m particularly impressed with his inventive use of the high-hat. Of course, when he does decide to let a little loose with a solo, they are intricate and hit home with precision; especially the extended mid-set solo, with the first half propelled by an exploratory drum roll.
All in all, an exhilarating evening of live electronic music by two artists who excel in a concert environment because instead of simply rehashing tired samples with minimal effort they strive for some element of artistic creation with each performance; yes, these are performances and not just sets. And, as Shigeto’s sound issues proved, live performances don’t always come hitch-free – but this unpredictability is part and parcel of the raw nature that such shows entail. As Shigeto announces in the midst of his set with humble self-deprecation: “Fuck Fuck Fuck…it’s been a wild wide already…Thank you for not leaving”. Wild in may have been, but only a fool would’ve found reason to leave.
Clive Paris Rozario