Live Music Reviews

Zen TV @ Forum, London

27 February 2004



OK, confession first. So exacting is the task of being a musicOMH reviewer, that there is the possibility that two events demanding reportage may occur on the same Bavarian-cold evening. Hard life, I know.

And so it came to pass on the 27th of February that your now roving reporter managed to miss the no-doubt boundary-breaking set of the UK’s premier mixologists, Coldcut, as part of a touring Ninja Tune party. However, all was not lost.

But when is a gig not a gig? Does two turntables, a box brim-full of vinyl, and a dazzling array of synchronized visuals qualify as a ‘live’ performance? For the remainder of this evenings’ performance, Ninja Tune’s sampladelic all-stars Kid Koala, Hexstatic, and DK would hold the answer.

But Kentish Town’s Forum ain’t nowhere near capacity. But if the cold put off the ummers and aahers, then they missed a show that demonstrated technical virtuosity, bombastic beatitude and, above all, an all-conquering love of music that if you couldn’t share, then, old chum, you’re checking out the wrong website.

As I make my grand entrance (alright nobody noticed) Kid Koala is in full-flow, exploring the possibilities of the turntable and found sound manipulation. Panoramic visuals train on the Kid’s magic fingers, that are deftly coaxing new structures and deriving original forms from the familiar, swapping rotting vegetables for fresh fruit. And look ma, no headphones!

And hey, there’s just enough showbiz in the Kid to dedicate a scratched-out, floating dub-affectedversion of Moon River (Billie Holiday maybe?) to “the ladies, the ladies that like turntables, and err, experimental music and stuff”. Come on, girls, doesn’t that just melt your heart?

Its the smoothest of transitions to Ninja Tune in-house AV specialists Hexstatic, who take to the gadgetry dressed in snazziest PC-World chic. The slick intro-visuals alternate 2001: A Space Odyssey with The League Of Gentlemen‘s horrific Papa Lazarou to frankly hilarious repetition. There’s a bewildering range of clever-clever Hextstatic-related logo cop-offs (including an ingenious use of the classic Thames TV ident) before a syncopated mix of 50 Cent‘s At The Club. If it really is Shorty’s birthday, she must be lovin’ it, lovin’ it, lovin’ it.

What follows is an evocation of Ninja Tune ethics. A visceral, Technicolor, sensurround experience that fair elevates all present into a state of unchemical ecstasy. It’s a musical bare-knuckle ride that takes in, amongst others Nancy Sinatra, AC/DC, a mutant reading of We Will Rock You as might have been imagined by Plastikman, and a breath-taking mix-and-match assemblage of Groove Is In The Heart with Bootylicious.

And, then (wait for it), a clip of Britain’s Most Successful Pop Star performing Wired For Sound on German TV. It sounds naff, and it certainly confused all-present until Sir Cliff stuck grooved on the song’s phrasing of ‘ecstatic’. (Geddit?). With more than enough cross-referencing beats to shake a stick at, this really was cross-fading nirvana. And just as a sign-off, all present are treated to an electro Beyoncé. Crazy for Beats – uh-oh, uh-oh.

It’s DK who faces up to the phantasmagoria of the Hexstatic experience. And DK wastes no time in this Ninja relay by shifting breaks to another tempo. There is Drum. And there is Bass. Put those together, readers, and I think you know what you’ve got. Its DK’s house for the rest of the evening. Live in the cockpit, there’s more than enough tricks, flicks and kicks that made the DJ Food / DK compilation, Now Listen, such a success. And after splicing in Mirror In The Bathroom and the Blackstreet / Studio One pirate of No Diggity for good measure, the crowd give it up. By the medium of feet.

And yes, with those steam-powered turntables, that rickety old vinyl, the bewitching images, there was more than a Glastonbury’s worth of spontaneity.

But it just wasn’t just music. It was a trip.

buy Zen TV MP3s or CDs
Spotify Zen TV on Spotify

More on Zen TV
Zen TV @ Forum, London