Saturday, July 21, 2007

Reck The Place

Reckno 04
Portman Hotel, Bournemouth

It's 1.00 AM. I'm walking back over the railway bridge towards my house, four blocks from the Portman, feet aching and filthy with night-chilled sweat. Despite having lived in this neighbourhood my entire life, I can't remember the last time I saw a train go under it. The white-painted metal is encrusted with black-marker graffiti, and, below, the walls next to the track are covered in larger, more colourful writing, like the tidemarks on the concrete banks at the beach. The entire neighbourhood seems to be rotting to the ground, caught between putrefication and gentrification. But things are always more poetic at night.

A couple of hours earlier, Skitanja had set up their stuff, Steve Potatoes hunched over a laptop, concentrating closely on miking up a toy record player. The more I see of Skitanja - and this time at least we could see their faces - the more impressed I am: playing a longer set, and with a more hospitable audience, than the last time I saw them, they seemed to really come into their own, constructing their own musical world from laptop detritus, synth squeak, percussion storms and brilliantly raging guitar, decorated with toy chimes and trumpet blasts. They are musical pranksters of the first order, like Lightning Bolt reorchestrated by John Zorn and The Residents, playing genres the way lesser men play instruments, slamming together and discarding one idea after another: melodica warbling goes into gabba beats goes into primitive trumpet goes into Van Halen-on-Valium guitar twiddling, drummer D.I. Signs multitasking like his life depended on it. The one moment that stuck in my mind was a patch of Carl Stalling-esque trumpet work that went on and on, seemingly oblivious to the massive overdriven storm of guitar from Potatoes, until the entire thing came to a sudden and aurally painful halt. At the end of every song they looked exhausted and happy just to have gotten through it, even though there was little of your typical rockist throwing-yrself-around. Always a good sign.

After a break in which the soundsystem (manned by an engineer who looked exactly like Richard D. James) played both The Normal's 'Warm Leatherette', Jason Donovan's 'Too Many Broken Hearts', 'Rave On' by Gene Vincent and a ragga jungle tune I couldn't name, Aotea began their set, feeding screamo through a mathcore filter and decorating with tiny synths (literally tiny - it couldn't have been more than a foot long), more trumpet, and more energetic shaking than you could, um, shake a stick at. A five man mass of shuddering flesh and fierce breath compacted onto the tiny stage and the space in front, the guitarist stepping over the monitor into the crowd on the last song, seemingly trying to scratch hieroglyphs into the air with his spastic movements; the songs were great in brevity and energy, each putting in more twists and turns than most bands manage in 15 minutes. Almost as soon as they had started, they finished.

Resident band True Swamp Neglect shuffled on next. They've been at Reckno since the very beginning, including the now legendary show with DJ Scotch Egg. More conventional in style than many of the musical freaks they consort with, but let's not hold that against them. A succession of indie rock-by-way-of-the-fifth-dimension numbers, including a pleasantly nonsensical ballad ("post-apocalyptic sceptics obsessed with/auto-asphyxiation/masturbation/and astral projection") and a pleasantly non-nonsensical one ("If I had a hook in my mouth/Would you take it out?"), as well as a number of twisty-turny rock-outs, filled with solid, nasty guitar work and occasional synth fills. For a band with three guitarists I was surprised they weren't raising more of a racket, preferring to go for melody (ha!). Still, very pleasant, and I'll be glad to see them at the next Reckno.

After the break the lights were dimmed and the way prepared for Cylob. He seemed to be the main draw of the evening for the scattering of ex-ravers in the audience, synapses long ago burned out by Ecstasy. There were, luckily, only a few, leaving the rest of us to get on with the business in hand: faced creased with attention over his laptop and mixer, the speakers filled with a restless, humming collage of digital acid squelches, submarine bleeps and maddened beats. And he kept going with that. And on. And on. Being on Aphex Twin's label, Rephlex, I wondered whether his intention was to simply tire the room's populace into the grave - I've never before seen one man reduce a room of grown men (and, indeed, the ladies - a couple of whom kept Cylob company down the front) to flailing, sweating wreckage. It happened, and I was in it. The life-threatening imperative - "dance, sucka!" - was too strong to resist, and I almost thought the venerable floorboards would crack when he suddenly added a volley of jungle beats to the mix, or slowed down the top layer of beats to a dubstep slowness. After what seemed an age, air a haze of sweat, he marched off, triumphant.

Finally, Jac The Disco, who have a close relationship with the nu-rave-electro-disco-punk-funk-blog-house-arrrrgh-god-I-hate-these-classifications scene, whom I normally regard with mild disgust. There were at least a few of their 'target audience' (18-25 year-olds with more alcohol and hormones than brains) up in the place; as the expected distorted electro beats rained down and klaxons were fired off, I sat back for a while, fascinated by a random pair of white shoes left on the floor. The noise making conversation impossible, I slipped back on - just as they dropped 'Waters Of Nazareth'. Well, I'm not proud of myself, but I danced. The usual suspects were played - The Gossip, stuff from Ed Banger, Kitsune, etc. - and, credit where it's due, they made quite a nice mess. The last record screeched to a halt, and the lights came up. I was on my way home.


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