Probably In Hell: LITE @ Electrowerkz - By Volume

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Probably In Hell: LITE @ Electrowerkz

Gabriel rounds up a rowdy, boozy and gloriously technical night. Author: on February 19, 2014
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I’ll admit, it was weird. One particular line from Hotel California popped into my head a number of times on Saturday night. “This could be heaven or this could be hell”. Though there were no mission bells or silhouettes in doorways, at its core I found the simple message of these words suddenly applicable to a grungy, ironworks-turned-hipster haunt in an off-colour alleyway behind Angel Underground Station. Doors open at 4pm. A myriad of DJs and post-rock outfits are crammed into an exhausting line up. 5pm. 6pm. 7pm. Electrowerkz, a dingy post-industrial venue with a stylish, rusted and altogether damp interior is at breaking point. Full to the brim with bobble hats, moustaches and vintage circular glasses, for tonight this claustrophobic cavity has become a showcase for both unfettered dedication and vacuous posturing of underground music nerds such as myself, and when Axes, Delta Sleep and Luo are thrown into the mix, it’s combined with pure unadulterated noise. Ferociously loud, sweltering and too early to be drinking heavily, I guess Don Henley was technically right; this could be heaven, but it’s more likely to be hell.

Running over an hour behind schedule, Brighton-based The Physics House Band made their way up to the stage at just past 9pm. The lights were dimmed and the apprehension started to grow as gig-goers slowly filtered in from the bar, each with beer in hand. The tension soon turned to frustration as we approached the end of what must have been the lengthiest sound check in history, but once we were off, wow, were we off. An absolutely thunderous roar erupted from Adam Hutchison’s stomach-high bass guitar, kick-starting a wild, synth-driven ride of enthralling rawness. The crowd had been silent and motionless for the past hour, but the sudden arrival of math-oriented post-rock of such all-encompassing dominance precipitated the long-awaited air of relief that filled the room, growing with each passing track. By the time they closed off their all-too-brief set, the place was jammed and ready for Japan’s finest instrumental rock outfit, LITE.

LITE are one of a kind. They aren’t exactly a hard band to like. At least one new album comes every calendar year, each one having expanded stylistically upon the last. Their music is upbeat, raucous and – technically – virtuosic. Simply put, it is a joy to behold, and even if one is merely pumping it through headphones on a dreary commute, it still strives to ignite a deeper element of consciousness. It’s playful, raging, complex, childlike and sophisticated all together, but when experienced live, it takes on another, almost indescribable dimension. Though the medium of the music video is – obviously – a highly popular art form, the visual properties of music are often overlooked, and while I understand this point is convoluted and errs on the side of pretentious, I think LITE, without light shows or giant LED screens, have championed this somewhat-untapped aspect of music. By being four of the most accomplished musicians the underground music scene has borne witness to, the Tokyo outfit rarely leave a pause to stop violently moving to, but when they do, the sheer speed of the fingers tumbling down fretboards and sweeping across synth keys is understood for what it is: brain-numbingly, bone-shakingly exhilarating. Having found myself stuffed into small caverns like Electrowerkz for the sake of LITE in the past, I knew this already, and I thought I knew what to expect a dazzling show of musicianship accompanied by a roomful of energetic polyrhythmic head-bobbing. By the time the band finally hit the stage at 10:30pm, though, the crowd were baying for blood, and LITE obliged.

The 2008 powerhouse track “Ef” kicked off proceedings with a merciless onslaught of distorted frenzy. By starting with perhaps their most aggressive track, it was clear these guys meant business, and by the time the set was 10 minutes old, there were elbows flying, circle pits swirling and beer spilling. It was relentless, and it got me thinking; perhaps a new gauge by which to measure the quality of a gig would be the ratio of how frequently your head smashes against the ceiling in relation to how many times your feet touch the floor. LITE have already passed my imaginary test with flying colours. The set ended up a slick, stylish mix of fire and brimstone, briefly letting up only once; “Ripple Spread”, an oddly refreshing slower cut from the band’s first release, their eponymous EP in 2006. Closing off the encore with the skittish, evergreen crowd favourite “Human Gift” – complete with crowd-surfing drummer – LITE had shaken the Islington Metal Works to its core, retreating back to the dressing room before bassist Jun Izawa emerged again and, upon seeing my grinning face and shaking my outstretched hand, proclaimed “Now… I need a beer.”

This gig is one where any flickers of my journalistic professionalism were finally extinguished. It is the final resting ground of my desperate struggle against sycophancy, where I hold my hands up, say ‘I just don’t care’ and proudly state that LITE at Electrowerkz on the 15th February was ‘life-affirming’, as my companion declared it. Everything came together in the most remarkable of ways: the band’s pure, unadulterated musicianship lit up every square inch of a dimly-lit venue. To summarise the feelings of such utter satisfaction one can take away from a gig of this magnitude; when LITE pick up their instruments, it feels good to be alive.

Artwork: Christian Harrop

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