Alex Smoke: Wraetlic - Oddio at Berkeley Suite, Glasgow, Sat 12 Jan 2013
Visuals-heavy set from London-based producer's vocal-based side project
It’s unclear how many of the healthy crowd packed into the Berkeley Suite’s underground art deco-meets-urban gothica black box of a basement know what they’re here to experience, with a small crowd of serious head-nodders and fans of the artist before us congregating at the front and the rest just getting on with their Saturday night. At one point an older raver approaches The List and voices his displeasure at what he’s hearing. It is, apparently, ‘fucking ketamine music’. We beg to differ.
London-based producer Alex Smoke’s new live show, premiering here in Scotland, has been designed around his recently released new album on Convex Industries, Wraetlic. He plays the whole record in order, all 11 tracks, and is hardly visible standing at dancefloor level in the front of the room. Only a desk lamp uplighting him gives us any clue where the sound is coming from, picking out a bearded young guy in a white T-shirt. Although the dynamic is that of a live show, with notable changes in tone between each track and a break for applause and thank yous at the end of the hour-long set, it could probably only work so well in a club environment.
A large part of the effect here is the visual installation created by Glasgow School of Art-educated artist Florence To, a coordinated work which is at once hard-edged and digital but blessed with a human warmth. Shards of strobing white light split the screen and coalesce into crystalline forms and a lump of liquid molten metal fountains pixels, while the speakers spit out a minimal bass thump and glitching, distorted noise breaks over the top. Smoke’s occasional, distorted vocals sound like the unintended reception of a murmured radio transmission, and as a wireframe planet burns onscreen, he creates a synthesised post-rock wind tunnel of noise as the event horizon approaches.
It’s uncertain whether the white diamond-shaped lumps of reflective material on the ceiling at the back are To’s work, but she can certainly be seen directing a final burst of smoke to thicken the air as the closing ‘The Watchful Eye’ builds and then ebbs away. It might not have been a show to please those who were here for a chest-thumping beat, but it did demonstrate that Smoke’s broadening his muse somewhat, taken us on a visual and sonic journey even as his music bumped most of the dancefloor into life.