Short Circuit Festival Mute: Laibach/Erasure/The Assembly/Yazoo/The Residents/Martin L. Gore (DJ set)

The Roundhouse, London - 14 May 2011

"Fantastic, quite a spectacle"

It’s always heart warming to see a legendary label become increasingly conventional in its unconventionality as time goes on. Whilst Mute kickstarted a revolution in electronic music (or at least provided the horsepower), its roster of groundbreaking electronic acts has never been more diverse than now, something which may be heart warming for us, but can surely unsettle a live audience. So praise be for Short Circuit, the annual electronic music festival that this year saw it hand over some of its pocket money to Mute.

With lectures and smaller performances from the likes of long-term Mute engineer/producer Gareth Jones taking place in the smaller rooms that occupy the mighty Roundhouse, the expectant crowd soon gathered in the main auditorium for the crowd pleasers, depending on how you like your pleasure of course. Placing The Residents on a bill prior to Erasure, who are then followed by Laibach is a seriously curious take on scheduling. Not that it mattered, each were excellent in their own way, although you’d probably be hard pushed to find many people that attended all three sets (unless you were one of the many who seemed to literally only be there for a DJ booth wave from Martin Gore).

As an enormous Residents (photo: right) fan, I can only become more biased and melancholic each time I see them. Melancholic because there’s always the nagging feeling that this might be the last time we’ll see them live in the UK. They’re no spring chickens, you know. Biased, because the show itself was excellent. A mixture of random Residents classics reduced to their dreamlike/ nightmarish core, performed by a trio of suitably attired oddballs (eyeballs?). Of course, many in the crowd hated it, but let’s face it, if you’re after real dark electronic music then most other Mute acts will only leave you hungry. And The Residents still have the ability, after 40 years, to be groundbreaking. I for one have never seen a singer use a hand held projector and multiple screens on stage in the same way, or as effectively, as lead oddball.

Less groundbreaking perhaps, but with a few more tunes you can play to your mother, were Erasure. By now the place was packed with people ready to sing their hearts out. A stunning looking Alison Moyet opened proceedings with a reminder of how had it not been for Yazoo, they’d be no Erasure at all. Then out comes a sparkly looking Andy Bell to take the audience on a journey through their childhood. Electronic music (and its audience) may date but songs a special as A Little RespectSometimes and Blue Savannah really don’t. Fergal Sharkey’s surprise performance of The Assembly’s Never, Never to close the brief set really was the icing the cake. A bit more effort in the lightshow would have been welcome, but Vince Clarke knows that it’s a chorus that makes your heart soar and a strobe than can make it stop.

And so onto Laibach. As predicted, most people were there for Erasure, which meant the audience slimmed down noticeably for Laibach, not helped by the fact that time was ticking on and people had babysitters to relieve. It’s real a shame that some missed out. Laibach’s performance can only be described as spectacularly crisp. Fantastic sound, and a great lightshow across two large screens, made for quite a spectacle. Finishing things off with a rousing and extended version of Life is Life saw much punching of fists in the air, and it was hard not to get swept up in their ironic opulence.

Mute have never been louder. 9/10 

Erik Stein