South London label Slowfoot Records – who may have released one of the year’s most inventive and original albums with Crewdson’s Gravity – hosts an evening of jazz-informed, experimental electronica at Dalston’s Café OTO.
The night opens with a 20-minute set from Signals, a trio that includes Mark Beazley from bass-led post-rock ensemble Rothko. Laptops, bass and bowed guitars are used in almost forensic fashion to create a deep, Eno-esque sonic excavation. It gets the show underway in understated style as a benign ambient drone slowly envelops Café OTO.
Next, Crackle perform their electro-dub-jazz, playing largely from their under-the-radar 2008 release Heavy Water. It proves that their live sound is much more direct and channelled compared to their recorded music. Each piece possesses a clandestine, opaque feel and grows in piecemeal fashion. They begin with Moonwalk, brilliantly showcasing their slow-moving, dimly-lit jazz atmospherics. Another highlight is Pale Eye which features a rich organ sound alongside propulsive percussive bursts. Performed live, their music recalls the dark moods of Mezzanine-era Massive Attack and the alt-jazz inflected noir of TNT-era Tortoise. They close the set with the title track from Heavy Water which reaffirms their ability to incorporate ancillary elements into their core bass/drums/keyboard sound.
Southeast London-based producer Hugh Jones goes by Crewdson (his middle name) when releasing his own music. Whilst not creating his own densely layered electronic compositions, Jones is the studio assistant to Matthew Herbert and he shares a similar wide-ranging, innovative and exploratory approach to making music.
Tonight he starts his set by sampling the sound of a glass bottle being hit against a microphone, before looping and manipulating it into a skittering beat. He does a similar trick using a plastic bag and cigarette lighter before segueing everything neatly into album opener Starting Out On The Wrong Foot. He uses customised hardware to further shape and manage his sound, including motorcycle handlebars and a games console joystick wired to a laptop. On the surface it may seem gimmicky and overly contrived but it works well and shows him to be plowing something of a radical, lone furrow in many respects. Trapdoor sees him lay down processed, live-sampled vocals on top of the stuttering micro-electronica that bubbles underneath, and Mime sees errant beats, jarring effects and clipped vocals coalesce to head-spinning effect. Like much of his set tonight, Mime is a coagulant sea of bleeps, clicks and digital ephemera.
Jones debuts a new track that initially appears to emulate the sound of malfunctioning machinery but is underpinned by a hierarchy of ricocheting beats. Satellite Bounce is a crumpled ball of distorted rhythms, glassy electronics and glitchy effects. The set ends with Electric Wing, which sees him play some beautiful saxophone phrases which he then live-samples and arranges skilfully alongside his white soul vocals. Crewdson has been labelled in some quarters as ‘post-dubstep’ and, while it may be true that certain dubstep traits can be identified deep within his sound, there is much more going on here. Tonight he gave us a glimpse of the sound of elements of dubstep, electronica and jazz spliced together before being satisfyingly broken up into hundreds of tiny pieces.