Saturday, 15 August 2009

Simian Mobile Disco in synth sickness

Album launch parties usually take palce at an intimate venue and entail a playback of a new record and/or a live show comprising songs from said album.

While in attendance an audience of journalists, pluggers and other industry types will typically drink as much free booze as possible as quickly as it can be consumed.

Simian Mobile Disco eschewed the standard live PA route for a much more interesting interactive experience at the launch party for second album 'Temporary Pleasure' on Friday (15 August).

This time round space-tech SMD duo James Ford and Jas Shaw made a bunch of new loops and tones for themselves (and everyone else present) to play using a "human synthesiser".

Despite the name this "instrument" is not a collection of harvested organs or severed limbs but a video installation designed by Kate Moross and produced by 3D boffins Inition. Apparently it is the "first ever-human augmented reality music and visuals mixer".

The installation is simple enough. A wall-mounted CCTV-sized video camera points towards a handful of circular foam mats (not dissimilar to slipmats) on the floor.

Each mat represents a different drum sound or synthesised tone which begins playing when it is picked up and tilted towards the camera at the correct angle. Each tone or beat gets louder or quieter in the mix as each corresponding mat is moved closer towards or further away from the camera.

If all this sounds absolutely baffling, it is. Visually it makes little sense until you actually have a go, but Timothy Cochrane's photos show SMD themselves and confused drinkers getting into the spirit of things.

In the wrong hands the result is a cacophonous din but lots of fun for anyone making it. In the right hands the result is still fun but also a throbbing, intense listen, like...well, like SMD's music.

Between Monday and Friday (21 August) from 12pm 'til 6pm anyone can walk into unit 1.12 in Kingly Court (a shopping precinct off Carnaby St, W1) and play around with the installation for themselves

Have a go. After all, it's not often you can just walk into an empty shop in central London to make live experimental techno.

As for the album? It's out Monday(17 August), has tonnes of killer colloborations on it from the likes of Beth Ditto and Super Furry Animals fella Gruff Rhys and is well worth checking out. In general SMD seem to have taken things in a more spacey and acidic direction following their excellent FabricLive 41 compilation.

For anyone brand new to SMD, 'Hustler', below, is arguably the best of their older tunes. Caveat: laptop speakers will not do it justice.

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