The Eccentronic Research Council by Laura Hickman
For the first in a series of events celebrating a century since Italian Futurist Luigi Russolo published L’Arte dei Rumori (The Art of Noises), his manifesto on “machine music”, cross-platform artistic collective Noise of Art had gathered together an eclectic mix of collaborators. Perhaps fittingly, the venue chosen was Village Underground, a former Victorian warehouse adjacent to a disused railway viaduct on the fringes of London’s East End – a symbol of the industrialisation that had originally inspired Russolo.
As well as a series of DJ sets covering electronic music old and new, there was a brief appearance from the ever impressive alternative all-female choir Gaggle. Kicking off a short set with a thunderous Gaslight, they then unveiled their very own app, the Gaggle Phone (which certainly puts the tone into ringtone!). As has become custom whenever I’ve seen them perform, Gaggle finished with their album closer, the mournful Leave The City, with the various members departing the stage in groups as the music played out.
The Eccentronic Research Council by Nadine Khatib
The most anticipated part of the night, though, was the appearance of headliners The Eccentronic Research Council, playing their first show in the capital. Formed by two veterans of the Sheffield music scene, Dean Honer and Adrian Flanagan (who have, in the past, collaborated with such luminaries as Jarvis Cocker and Philip Oakey), they enlisted the considerable talents of actor Maxine Peake (most recently seen in the BBC period piece The Village) and released a concept album, 1612 Underture, based on the infamous Pendle witch trials of the 17th century.
The story of the Pendle witches looms large in the popular psyche of Lancashire (much like Pendle Hill itself, a distinctive feature on the skyline overlooking Burnley) – from the coaches on a bus route from Manchester named after each of the accused to Live At The Witch Trials, the debut album by The Fall, who just happened to be playing across town tonight (a band that, in a curious twist, Adrian Flanagan was once briefly a member of). With 1612 Underture, The Eccentronic Research Council recount the tale through a partly fictionalised, often witty modern day road trip (brought to life in an accompanying short film), which also touches on contemporary social parallels.
A full house cheered as the band appeared – Honer and Flanagan, the self styled “practical electronics enthusiasts”, took their place at the back, behind a table loaded with vintage analogue synths (and kept company by two imitation skulls), whilst on other either side and dressed all in white, like extras from the finale of the Wicker Man, Philly Smith and Lucy Cunsolo provided extra keyboards, percussion and vocals. Most definitely centre stage, however, was Maxine Peake, attired all in black.
The Eccentronic Research Council by Sam Parr
The set opened with the steady motorik of Autobahn 666, a Kraftwerk referencing ride along the A666, the so called Devil’s Highway that connects Manchester, Bolton and Blackburn, that Peake narrated with her rich Boltonian tones. This set the mood for much of the rest of the night, with otherworldly synths alternating between bouncy, burbly and just plain sinister acting as a soundtrack for Peake, a dominant presence, to recite from her little black book. Philly Smith and Lucy Cunsolo took over for Wicked Sister Chant, whilst another Sheffield colleague, Lucy Hope, took the stage for The Hangman’s Song (naturally enough, with a noose adorning her neck). Flanagan left his gadgets momentarily to duet with Peake on Another Witch Is Dead, probably the sort of song Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra would come up with if asked to score a film for Hammer studios (though I doubt Ms Sinatra could cackle quite so maniacally as Maxine Peake does at the song’s end).
The Eccentronic Research Council by EdieOP
Not all was doom and gloom, and there was a fair bit of banter from the stage. Adrian Flanagan asked the audience if anyone was from Lancashire (being Salford born himself), but when he was overwhelmed by replies, he just gave up and joked “just shout random places at me!”
The core trio of Flanagan, Honer and Peake returned for an encore, the rather unseasonal but reassuringly acerbic Black ChristMass, which descended into an electro wig-out before they departed the stage for the last time.
With a London show now grudgingly under their belt, The Eccentronic Research Council headed back North once more and, with new material a current work in progress, we shall wait to see where their analogue odyssey takes them next.
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