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Sixteens
Cristine
Cassette Electrik
Being Boiled @ Notting Hil Arts Club, London
Tuesday May 8 2007

Cassette ElektricLet's go down into the minimal-trendy concrete bunker below Notting Hill Gate for another night of Being Boiled. Electronic-ish sounds, hosted by Client and crew. I say 'electronic-ish' because, notwithstanding Being Boiled's staunch electro ethic, guitars are by no means banned. That's good news for our first band tonight. Cassette Electrik are, apparently, all-electro in the studio, but expand into something akin to a rock band for the stage. At any rate, the essential duo - a bloke lurking behind a bank of keyboards, oscillating between amiability and concentration throughout, and a reserved but equally amiable female vocalist in downright assertive blue hosiery - are joined tonight by a couple of extra musicians on bass, more keyboards, guitar, and (sometimes) laptop. The result is music that doesn't necessarily sound particularly electronic, but which exhibits a certain Goldfrapp-esque slink and swagger. Cassette Electrik are a pop group and proud of it: their songs are never less than neatly catchy. Pin-sharp melodies mix it with the beats in a way that suggests the band have studied eighties electropop at O-level. Good stuff for sure, although my only niggle is that many of their songs never really get out of second gear. The band seem reluctant to push things beyond the mid-tempo zone, and it's only towards the end of the set, when they finally pick up the pace a bit, that Cassette Electrik demonstrate that they know how to rock out, too. File under: good, but go faster!

CristineCristine (that's not a typo, they really have dropped their H) have the slightly random look of a band assembled after a drunken night in the pub. Two frazzled desperados on drums, keyboards and vocals are flanked by a crisply attired guitarist who looks like she's taken time off from her law practice to thrash out a few chords. The noise they make is a pell-mell take on out-there avant-rock, with occasional glimpses of a skewed pop sensibility, as if Sonic Youth were offering crash space to Soft Cell after a particularly messy party. If all that sounds like a goshawful mash-up - well, occasionally, it can seem that way. But most of the time, it works rather well, and after an initial reluctance to join Cristine in their strangely fractured world of weirdpop, the audience decides to suspend disbelief and just go with it. Thus encouraged, the band rattle out a rather fine set of alternative-universe rackets, and even the sudden revelation that the backing vocals are being shamelessly mimed (the guitarist laughs in embarassment as her voice soars from the PA even though she has neglected to step up to the mic) doesn't dampen things down. Cristine are blazing their own unsteady trail through the rock 'n' roll undergrowth, and I think I'd quite like to follow them. At a safe distance, naturally.

There's a rumour going round the venue that the Sixteens are lost in transit. Something to the effect that the band - who hail from San Fransisco, and have never played in the UK before tonight - failed to appreciate the difference between Notting Hill and Nottingham, and were last seen heading up the M1 at a rate of knots. At any rate, it's almost showtime when the Sixteens finally tumble through the door in a flurry of synthesizers, effects pedals, and tangled wire. They assemble their gear in an impressively short time (and the Sixteens have a lot of gear) and seamlessly progress from set-up to Sixteensset, as if the preliminaries were all part of the show. For all the band's left-field art sensibility, the Sixteens are surprisingly effective as a no-shit disco unit, and they experience no problems in getting the Being Boiled massive shaking their booties.

Switching between guitar and keyboards, surveying the crowd as if intent on weeding out dissenters, Kristo Bal comes on like a techno-shaman, all eyes and angles and surreal dance moves. On the other side of the stage, hemmed in by technology, Veuve Pauli frowns and hollers as if the keyboards stacked around him need to be kept in their place by sheer human dominance. The music, clanking, grinding, but at the same time naggingly insistent, creates a heady groove of analogue anarchy. Even the most puzzled punters find themselves pulled, as if by strange forces, towards the dance floor, as the Sixteens win over the Being Boiled crowd beat by beat. It's all weirdly splendid and splendidly weird. If this is the sound of post-apocalyptic club cuture, I'll 'ave some of that. Buy me a ticket for the dystopian disco.

 


Essential links:

Sixteens: MySpace
Cristine: MySpace
Cassette Electrik:
MySpace

For more photos from this gig, find the bands by name here.

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  Page credits: Review, photos and construction by Michael Johnson.
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