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Psychologist & Becoming Real @ Electrowerkz, London 11/08/11

August 19, 2011

Originally posted on The 405

It’s been a difficult week for the average Londoner (okay, English citizens in general). During these dark days, why not embrace these feelings and immerse oneself in this unnerving energy? In many respects, that’s what tonights sonic leanings are all about.

Thankfully the gig goes ahead (Jaime XX round the corner is not so lucky) and those present are rewarded with something electronically a little special. I arrive in time for Becoming Real, an artist who I by chance saw at Corsica Studios last year and was hugely taken a-back; ‘what is this?’ I thought as my mind beautifully imploded. It was almost a violent, sublime provocation to the senses, and have closely kept an eye on the South Londoner since.

On record Toby Ridler, alias Becoming Real, produces some of the finest earthy, spacious grime that you’re likely to sink a life in to. Ghost Step it’s been labelled, and that’s about right. Tonight however a different side is present that stems from the same place stylistically, but takes a more twisted straight-up rave-edge to it.

Not as much of the melancholic air thick on reflection, and more a Zomby-esque 90’s rave/acid house reminiscence; though of course spliced with your more contemporary pleasures in this post-everything futuregarage world.

It’s fascinating to see him behind the decks, living every beat and every note whilst floating on tippy-toes like a featherweight boxer between gadgets, the sound pulsating through his spindly South London figure and zebra-skin cap. He fucking knows his music. And loves it.

The final track contains the feeling of a souped-up 16-bit boss theme with its unusual, slight, cold synths trying to be heard in the high-tempo nightmarish mood. It all still contains that stream-of-straw cold abrasiveness, whilst very much focussing on peering through the eyes of an unspoken k-hole world rammed with infinite possibilities to endure. It’s just a crying shame that there are not enough people here to witness all this; come on people, would you really prefer to be outside in a darkened alley smelling of nicotine and London?

Now it’s Psychologist time and Electrowerkz starts to fill up. As a side-note, it’s a great grimy little place isn’t it? And just who the hell was dj-ing? The Weeknd into Dizzee Rascal? Brilliant stuff.

With two very disparate EPs under their belt, Psychologist, aka Iain Woods, are a tough prospect to predict for a live setting. Debut Waves of OK contained a subtle fragility, and an EP calmly swimming in tenderness. Whereas Propellor (out this week) is comparatively a jarring, cold and thickly layered affair.

Which way does it go? As it turns out, neither really. Well, it’s certainly more Propellor; but then some.

We’re reminded of the week in a 3 minute prelude as a hooded, masked figure appears on stage hunched over the decks, with the following mockingly repeated on a chopped and screwed loop from a plum English accent taken from the news “A Lot of police officers… steadfast… very very brave officers…A Lot of police officers…” followed by a bass-ridden “riots on the streets of London” vocal.

As described Iain Woods in the creator of Psychologist, but on stage tonight five members are out, adding to the cacophony of brooding layered sound. Though Woods is the focus point of the energy; swinging in bipolar fashion from a staggeringly intense, stoic and calm gospel vocal approach and performance – to an all out hyperactive exhausted scene kicking wildly and screaming. Literally screaming, a high-pitched blood-curdling wail to be heard a couple of times.

And that stare. Theatrical, yet terrifying. Enigmatic whilst bareboned. Wild-eyed with a subverted haunted glare. In short, front man material. You have seen the video yeah? Like that ethos.

But ah yes back to the music. A smart use of live vocal loops in differing ways – particularly during Propellor – beguile, but never distract.

This continues with a repeated ‘I believe in love” segment, that is again, going back to a 90’s all out rave style; and this mode sums up the set almost, hugely upbeat, and very danceable. Definitely some D ‘n B is thrown in too amongst the bleeps, adding to the exhilarating and knackering nature.

It was a real privilege to see two such complimentary fine acts in a venue of the size. It may be pretentious reviewer hyperbole, but against the backdrop of the week it seemed to create a further heightened atmosphere, in a genre already steeped in the stuff.

What is for sure: Be sure to check either of these two out if you have even a vague penchant for anything electronic, dark and upbeat – and of course bloody excellent.

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