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Moduretik flyerModuretik
Gertrud Stein
Soft Riot

Power Lunches, London
Satuday December 1 2012




One of the finest traditions of ye olde rock 'n' roll is that gigs should take place in premises that are small, dark, and ill-ventilated. A tradition proudly upheld by the basement room at Power Lunches.

It's hot, stuffy, dimly lit by what look like left-over Christmas tree lights, and as for the size of the place - well, let's put it like this. I have purchased shoes in bigger boxes.

Fortunately, Soft Riot brings his own soft lighting, in the frorm of two floor spots. Their up-tilted beams make Jack Duckworth (he who is Soft Riot) look like a Hollywood mad scientist, sitting amid his black boxes and miles of wires.

From these piles of technology he generates an electronic thrum and wobble, sometimes stark and spiky, sometimes sweepingly ambient. Occasionally, it sounds as if the Soft Riot soundscape might tip over the edge into something - dare I say it - danceable. Here and there, pulses emerge from the sonic murk, a rhythm threatens to break away and make a dash for it. But full-on repetitive beats never quite arrive. Soft Riot doesn't quite inhabit the chill-out room - there's too much energy in the wires for that. But it is a cerebral experience.

Soft Riot - Gertrud Stein

The technology on stage suddenly gets a lot more minimal. Gertrud Stein has a keyboard so small I'm almost willing to bet she got it in a Christmas cracker, and an outfit that looks like it was half-inched from Madonna's wardrobe, circa 1983. A shuddering electro-sequence starts up, stripped-down and controlled - and also with more than a touch of 1983 about it. Beats and bloops bounce of the walls, the spaces between the sounds defining the rhythm. There is no clutter. It's precise and sparse. Yet the sound is big and, possibly as a result of going through the Power Lunches PA, it has a ripped-up edge that adds a certain sprinking of lo-fi seasoning.

Gertrud SteinIf all of that sounds like we've teleported to a squat in proto-techno 80s Antwerp, and we should all be sitting around stroking our goatee beards and nodding knowledgeably over every minimal beat - well, yes, there's a deliberately reductionist, left-field feel to Gertrud Stein's electronix.

But what saves the performance from an over-abundance of severity is Gertrud Stein herself, on vocals and keyboard-prodding, who fronts the show - no, wait, she is the show - with pop star aplomb.

Her vocals, enunciated with scrupulous exctitude, always retain an element of human warmth, even as she scolds us over her coldwave beats. At times, it gets a bit like watching Kim Wilde doing 'Me And My Rhythm Box' from Liquid Sky, but hey, as concepts go, that's pretty good, I'd say.

One other attriubute of Power Lunches, which regular visitors will welcome as an integral part of the venue's quirky charm, is that nothing ever runs on time. We're heading for 2am now, the winding-down end of the night, and people are beginning to drift out of the door in search of night buses and bed. But there's still one more act to go: Moduretik, about whom I knew nothing until I Googled the name five seconds ago.

As a result of that keen-eyed research, I can tell you that Moduretik is Jan Jiskra, a one-man minimální elektronické artist from the Česká republika. And, as a result of watching at least some the Moduretik performance (before the sand runs out of my personal hourglass, and I, too, head off in search of night buses), I can also tell you that Jan Jiskra looks like one of the modern Doctor Whos - tall, lean, floppy fringe, boffin-ish manner. His music is a kind of garagey retro-electro, all early eighties fizz and wallop. It's somewhere between Robert Rental and Fad Gadget, and although this kind of stuff is an established style now, rather than anything particularly rad, dad, Moduretik does it well.

ModuretikOn my way out, it occurs to me that Robert Rental and Fad Gadget made minimal fizz-and-wallop music because that was all the early eighties technology allowed them to do.

Moduretik makes those sounds because he chooses to do so. Minimal electronic music is just another item on the shelf in the supermarket of style these days.

The best artists in this kind of area nowadays are those that allow their personality to trounce the technology. And tonight, that was Gertrud Stein.



Moduretik: Website | Facebook

Gertrud Stein: Facebook

Soft Riot: Website | Facebook

For more photos from this gig, find Gertrud Stein by name here.


Page credits: Photos and construction by Michael Johnson. Nemesis logo by Antony Johnston. Red N version by Mark Rimmell.

Words and photos in Nemesis To Go by Michael Johnson are licenced under Creative Commons. You may copy and distribute this material, or derivations of it, provided that you give a credit to Michael Johnson and a link to Nemesis To Go. Where material from other sources is used, copyright remains with the original owners. All rights in the name 'Nemesis To Go' and the 'N' logo are retained.