The exposed brick walls and simplistic vastness make Village Underground one of the most satisfying London venues from an audience's perspective. Caught between the benefits of what a warehouse and club has to offer, the railway arches are the perfect host to the expansive electronic sounds of Nosaj Thing, and fellow Californian prodigies Free the Robots and Mono/Poly.
Having managed to carve and define a unique style amongst the circus of electronic artistry in Los Angeles with the 2009 album ‘Drift’, Nosaj returned this year with a highly anticipated follow-up ‘Home’. Jason "Nosaj Thing" Chung tops the bill tonight, but as Free the Robots takes a bite out of the swaying crowd, we question how much will be left for the headliner. The sound system holds up against the bass-heavy, beat-centered offering of the underground hip hop producer, who laces much of his studio work with contorted jazz elements. There’s a distinct departure from anything that doesn’t lift the crowds feet off the ground closer towards the swinging creature above, now blinded by the abstract visual display screaming from the chunky projector onto a huge wall behind the decks. The audience stretches back almost out of sight into raised shadows; judging from the static pauses in-between cig breaks, it seems few were expecting such an energetic display, which reaches a stunning high point when ‘Diary’ draws the entire smoking section to the front of the crowd.
Mono/Poly follows on with a hypnotic jump-up set filled with heavy breaks and brilliantly placed Destiny's Child and Jefferson Airplane samples. By this point the audience have taken their beanies off and let their hair down, welcoming Danny Brown's ferocious hip hop track 'Blueberry (Pills and Cocaine)' with open arms.
Considering the lean towards ambient and atmospheric styles which Nosaj Thing favours, it appears a poorly thought out idea to inject the audience with so much energy, before making them sit back and soak up ethereal tones for an hour. That assumption proves to be a lack of faith, as Jason takes over literally seconds after Mono/Poly making it clear that the energy built beforehand is intended for use as rocket fuel for a rhythmically extroverted performance.
A selection of new tracks from the 'Home' LP are sculpted and shifted amongst older classics like ‘Coat of Arms’ and ‘Fog’. The Californian looks matured and more adventurous than ever, working snippets of Burial over swooping drums and rising, metallic synthesizers. Taking the manic arousal of the support acts, the Californian manages to mould it into a far more thoughtful and tailored effort, masterfully composed from what appears to be an Akai sampler. The three big players in this showcase all share deserved respect for one of the most enthralling shows of this rapidly depleting year - although it’s Nosaj Thing who added a last word which few musicians could match in a live setting.
Words by Charlie Wood