A band of modern-day merry pranksters has rolled into Dublin – a busload of DJs and expert knob-twiddlers creating an alternative summer holiday soundtrack.
After 100 releases, the Warp Record label is taking its Magic Bus Tour around Europe. The graffiti-splattered Volvo coach has invaded around 25 cities in May and June and Temple Bar Music Centre is the last leg. Plaid have been the headline act, playing most of the live dates, with support from other warp labelmates. Some of the Rephlex crew hitched a ride at some stage, and other special guests got bus passes.
While most events on the multimedia Warp Magic Bus Tour had different DJ line-ups, each was a showcase of 10 new films from the Warp/Creative Review Animation Project, and films by Warp-affiliated director Chris Cunningham, scored by aphex Twin and Autechre.
For €22 in Dublin we get Plaid Live, Drexciyan DJ Stingray, Keith Tenniswood, Mad Dog Wallace and label-founder Steve Beckett on the bill.
DJ Stingray is representing Drexciya, the covert Detroit electro outfit whose secret identity is held by prolifically releasing albums under pseudonyms (Arpanet, Dopplereffekt, Japanese Telecom etc) on unrelated labels. Stingray’s records are in the same vein as the latest Drexciya record Harnessed the Storm – dark, slithery electro with metallic snares that goes down well.
Halfway through his set the Drexciyan raises the bpm to meltdown levels, causing some confusion. While most frantic figures reprogram themselves accordingly, some are left flailing. He compromises near the end, slowing the tempo but maintaining the sci-fi horror mood until he exits the stage.
Half of Plaid is at a titanic mixing desk, but I’m not sure what half (Ed and Andy don’t appear in many photos). He’s programming eclectic beat patterns, accompanied by kaleidoscopic video artwork on giant screens behind. Compared with the abrasive electro, the Plaid set relies on a subtler tweaking of the senses, and opens with the atmospheric Coat from the latest P-Brane EP.
Organic synth and piano lines overlay glitchy off-kilter beats, and the crowd becomes more of an ‘audience’, still dancing, but focusing on the stage, even more so when images of Plaid’s hand dexterity are projected on screen.
New Family, from Double Figure is the highlight, and its serene soundscape rises above the breaks, fine-tuning the atmosphere into elation that holds until Plaid finishes.
On the way out I buy a Warp T-shirt in the lobby. It says “reasonable person” on the wash label and I’d return the compliment, only “reasonable” isn’t sufficient praise.
- Published in BBM magazine, July 2002