Full disclosure: Simian Mobile Disco might be my favorite band. Who can really ever say?
I can say, however, that their live show included moments of sheer elation matched by dizzying confusion. How these two I’ve seen and heard so many times could produce an array of sounds so diverse and surprising is beyond my humble ears. And I’ve heard some things in my day. We were recently treated to the full-spectrum experience one night in Los Angeles: electronic soundscape meets very respectful krautrock turns all-out, churning analog techno filth.
My relationship with this album was teased into existence with this video, a simple glimpse into our dudes noodling around on a new modular setup in GDD™ Favorite Location: Joshua Tree, Earth.
We were as surprised as you no doubt are to learn that they had ditched the sprawling setup they had previously brought and carefully encircled in each live performance, in favor of a more mobile setup which would also serve the purpose of being played truly live– no laptop, just boxes of knobs and cables.
They switched out to a completely new setup. I’m told they did so in order to challenge themselves; everything you hear and see at the show is completely live, and it feels like tingling magic. This also gives them the added benefit of recording most of the album live at the legendary Pappy and Harriets’ in the desert, which you’re welcome to have a gander at.
Go see a show at Pappy and Harriets’ whenever you have the chance, but I digress…
The experience–and experience it was–proved itself to be all-encompassing. Even the visuals we saw at the show were processed, challenged, generated, and fed in such a way to be consistent with the music. The execution proved the perfect accoutrement to the robust analog feel of the sounds produced. Next level stuff.
Their visual co-conspirators, Jack Featherstone and Hans Lo, designed a “complimentary bespoke hardware system” to produce the show’s visuals, which involved “feeding live generated digital content through an oscilloscope, filming the oscilloscope’s screen, then further processing the image produced.” You can see why you need to see this to believe it.
The show was opened up to the delight of myself and fellow nerds with cable patching and analog noodling on the part of a gentleman and synth wizard known as m. geddes gengras, a fine primer for what the rest of the night held in store.
Simian took the stage with a crowd anticipation previously unseen at one of their shows, as all knew that we were in for a treat, and eager to see how this would all really play out. They executed flawlessly, drawing the crowd into deepening feedback loops, washing our ribs with bubbling, fat, analog lowend. Eardrums, dear reader, were tantalized with detailed and decaying soundscapes all along the way. Lo, by the end they had everyone under their spell and coaxed even the most astutely trimmed mustache in the house into dancing fanboy.
Once the grooves swung into action on songs such as “Calyx,” the beats built up inside an urge to engage, and motion was unavoidable. They even treated us to a small selection from Unpatterns, to the surprise and delight of all fans in attendance. We assumed this wouldn’t be the case, as the night was to be dedicated to a live performance of the new album, but they are afterall really a band for their fans, this album and the entire night has solidified the assertion. Everyone freaked out, several times. We weren’t there to simply stand content in arms-crossed admiration of some new sound design piece, regardless of how chicly avante the tastes our selected dates for the evening. Simian Mobile Disco before anyone else.
What was the show like? I’ll need you to check it out, but give the album a thorough listen in high quality format, and give all the videos found here a viewing. By the end of the show, I was frothing, discussing with all new compatriots around me the significance of this performance in the scope of electronica and dance music as a whole, it truly was the realization of a dream. Challenging sure, for both fan and artist alike, but once ultimately realized, a great reward at the end of a difficult creative process and the beginning of an exciting new phase in career– the realization of a dream.
If you’re as keen as I for more, the best breakdown of the entire closed system they’ve devised can be found in FACT’s presentation of how this was all built, how the album was devised, performed, and recorded; then how the show was achieved and unveiled as a finished life cycle of new process. I’m excited to say that this looks like a creative process they’ll be able to continue using, as they’ve mentioned its easy to work within, and you could feel the fun of them being in their element pushing the limits of their new modular gear.