Apparently, some of the more hardcore members of the Sonic Boom fan club can be somewhat dictatorial when it comes to their expectations of what he should perform. Or so it would seem, based on the rather meek apology that Boom, aka Pete Kember, gives, as he starts tonight’s show, informing those in attendance that it will only be comprised of the 10 songs featured on his recent album All Things Being Equal and not contain any of his Spectrum/E.A.R./Spacemen 3 material. There’s some cheeky untethered grumbling from the affectionately hushed crowd, but all in attendance are aware that the record, which came out last year on the independent Carpark label, is one of the strongest to date from the Warwickshire based musician and producer’s extraordinary canon.
Performed not quite in chronological order, the concert begins with the gentle album opener Just Imagine, a song whose genesis came from Kember reading an interview with a young cancer patient who expressed naively belligerent optimism in the face of his approaching fatality. Being himself a survivor of a once crippling drug addiction, he informs us he’s also a fan of the power of positive thinking, and the robotic lyrics indeed speak of the possibilities available to folk with open minds, who enjoy risk taking and left-brain thinking, with a passion for the future.
It’s a tenderly confident start to proceedings, a swaying mechanical drone that effectively works to quieten the crowd as two eye level lasers broadcast green and purple circles that jumped swim around the ceiling and a bubbling light show flickers on the wall behind where Kember is sitting. That reassuring feeling of hopefulness continues with the tracks Things Like This (A Little Bit Deeper) and On A Summer’s Day. Both numbers amiably chew the cud for what feels like 20 minutes each. Gently ineffectual and slightly tragic like the dying HAL9000 singing about his beloved Daisy, they’re built around simple lyrical repetitions that bear a heavy debt to the swollen digital pastoralia and half speed vocal mannerisms of Animal Collective’s Panda Bear, with whom Kember has often worked over the last decade, most significantly on the albums Tomboy and Panda Bear Vs The Grim Reaper.
On the deceptive roar of The Way That You Live, the chaotic undulations of I Can See The Light Bend and the pulsating krautrock of Tawkin Tekno, Kember changes tack and gets to unleash something a little more devious. All three are highly charged and, especially on the ’70s germanic synth inflections of Tawkin Tekno, you feel him begin to rearrange the atoms in the tiny concert venue as eyes begin to close and collectively roll skyward.
Acknowledging graciously that the crowd tonight may well be the largest he’s ever played to in Brighton throughout his four decade career, he thanks us all for coming and goes on his way. Tonight Sonic Boom contradicted his album title. Thankfully nothing was equal, every track seemingly improved upon the one that came before in new and remarkable ways.