Ben Butler & Mousepad - Henry’s Cellar Bar, Edinburgh, Thu 5 May 2011
Electronica wunderkind pairs cold synths with a fun-loving sensibility
Even on a quiet Thursday, faced with an array of geekish men of a certain age, tapping feet and nodding along while comparing notes on synth model numbers, Joe Howe still manages to put on a show. The sometime Gay Against You and Germlin member unleashes a wall of noise from the array of sticker-laden kit resting on a lone trestle table in the centre of the stage, barking at his equipment when it won’t make the noises he wants: ‘More music! Play!’
Wearing glasses and the kind of brush-like moustache you’d expect to find on a synth player in Cold War-era Berlin, Howe makes music that’s a welcome challenge. At one point he seems to be laying down a slice of austere but funky 80s electro swathed in a brain-grating acid hiss, the next it sounds like he’s playing ‘Axel F’ and a Squarepusher track over one another. ‘Supermotion’ is like ELO played on a cheap keyboard by a teen musical prodigy with ADHD, while another song saw him enquire, ‘If anyone knows where that keyboard line’s from, they win the next song.’ It all ended amidst prayerful dance moves, his hands clapped together and his eyes to heaven. But if he’s looking for inspiration, there surely isn’t much left to go round.