18 November, 2008

Review: Max Tundra and Clinic live at The Village 12/11/08

Now in its third year, Heineken Green Synergy is still a little confusing, if not confused. It's as if it's not quite sure if it's a genuine indoor (mini-HWCH-ish) festival, or just another BudRising-esque musical commercial. But who really cares, when they bring quality acts together (unlike BudRising, which usually opts for the high-selling but average) for reasonable prices. This year it really seemed focussed on the "synergy" aspect, bringing some really disparate artists together, like the unlikely pairing of Max Tundra and Clinic, the former being an appparent entity of pure distilled energy and good humour, the latter being weird, dour and brilliant.

That's not to say the gig as a whole didn't work. On the contrary. Max Tundra bounced and hit buttons and keys and blew into things and sang and jumped and danced and raved, producing an incredible amount of sound for one person, albeit one person surrounded by gadgets and instruments. His sound occupies that grey area between dance, electronica and even rock, defying the definitions of all three, and never being afraid to borrow (or take the piss out of) anything else. The music was good, it was interesting, it was loud (as things tend to be in the Village) but what Max Tundra is really bringing back to inhabitants of this grey area is performance. Performance of electronic-based music of any kind occupies its own shady area in the performance annals, confused as its entry is by the idea of pre-recorded tracks and samples. True Max Tundra used tracks, but it was his ability to create a full texture of sounds and ideas over them, while never losing his connection with the audience among his multitude of instruments.

Clinic on the other hand, are a truly dour bunch of Liverpudlians, but with some interesting ideas. This gig was accompanied by monochrome visual projections, which, though they had seemingly nothing to do with what was being played, contributed to Clinic's attempt at de-personalising their music, their masks creating an anonymity and rather than distracting, forcing attention onto their sound. And how to describe that sound? A contantly-changing drone: the kind of drone into which you get sucked, and once you're inside, begins to break up, showing you all its different elements of the whole in their individual glory. Clinic are deadpan on the surface, but broiling under the skin. Even the live show is a masterwork of production elements: an ideal balance between instruments and sounds, the ex-key movements and scale inflections which are unnerving because they soon start to sound normal. Clinic take something ordinary, warp it, make it strange and then make you believe that this was the 'ordinary' all along.

Anna Murray