Eisenfunk/Kommand+Kontrol/Plastic Autumn/Paresis

Electrowerkz, London – 23rd March 2012

"My first Eisenfunk gig - but all the acts were worth getting out early for"

[Live photo]

This was my first Eisenfunk gig, but all the support acts tonight were worth getting out early for. Simon Fuller, aka Paresis, is a new signing to niche English industrial label Armalyte Industries. Based on this evening’s sampling and knowledge of AI’s roster – that’s a pairing that even Match.com couldn’t have pulled off any better. You’ve got to respect a guy who, after a couple of numbers, says: “That wasn’t me loosing my voice, it was me trying to sound cool!” referring to his unique vocal delivery. Fuller employs familiar growling so common on the hard electro/industrial scene, but adds a rather unusual twist on that tested formula – the high octave shriek. It sounded so unusual that you’d think electronic trickery was involved in shaping the voice. But it wasn’t (I specifically asked him afterwards) – it’s all natural – if you can call such a noise from a human mouth ‘natural’! 

I can’t honestly say I was enamoured with the technique deployed; to me it was bordering on comical at times. Nevertheless, in the context of the genre it kinda worked. It certainly sets Paresis apart from other, better-established players on the scene and purely from a marketing perspective that’s a good thing. More compelling for me were the colossal thumping electronics that the project uses as the bedrock to all Fuller does. That alone was effective. The right role for the voice hasn’t yet been found in my view but it is uncommon enough to warrant inclusion. If your curiosity has been tweaked, you should watch out for Paresis’ debut EP later this year. 

Paresis setlist: Sentinel 22, I'm Not Afraid of You, Last Shadow, Demons We Are, At Your Command 

Plastic Autumn I’d never heard of before reading the line up for this gig. Checking them online let me to a very decent cover of (much liked) Depeche Mode song But Not Tonight (An A side in the USA). Falk Pitschk is Plastic Autumn. He is gifted with striking looks, charm, charisma and, occasionally, a striking haircut too. On the appearance front then Pitschk has been well-endowed. Fortunately, this is replicated on the music front too where his writing is frequently beguiling. Pitschk has managed to pull of what so many others have tried, which is to channel their 80s electronic pop influences into a contemporary take on the genre. The most difficult thing to pull of with this approach is not to sound like either: a) a poor knock-off, or b) cheesy. Plastic Autumn are neither. 

Unfortunately, we didn’t get to hear the Mode cover tonight (despite my vocal prompting from the floor), but actually that was okay. As Plastic Autumn’s own compositions made for a fine half-hour set in their own right. The sound is darkwave with an electronic pop sensibility I, for one, was an instant convert. Judging by the response I was not alone. For many enthusiasts across the globe, England is the spiritual home of electronic/synth pop. Appropriate then that one as appreciative and steeped in such a tradition as Plastic Autumn clearly are should be heard in the heart of the capital city. I hope this is just the first of many PA gigs – wherever on the planet I might happen to see them. I’m looking forward to extending the relationship and my endorsement of their worthy contribution to the scene begins here and now. I suggest you seek them out. 

Plastic Autumn setlist: Intro, Gone, Islands, Distance, Machtspiele, A Thousand Times, Counterstrike, Lost in a Dream, Angel 

English electronic industrialists Kommand+Kontrol have recently undergone something of a make-over. The Clockwork Orangesque bowler hats are now de rigueur on stage (as are the white shirts and black ties), their logo has changed from one of militaristic overtones, typical of the industrial scene from whence they came, to a black bowler with the band name stamped below. This indicative not only of a deliberate sartorial statement rarely seen in such circles, but also of their evolving sound which, with every release, morphs steadily from their roots in old school Front Line Assembly to something closer to darker, edgy techno acts like Gesaffelstein. Their latest release was an extended re-issue of their Full Frontal Assault EP, called Full Frontal Assault – The Second Front which reflects where the band sits musically at the moment. Teetering, slightly uneasily, between the above two camps. Curiously enough, the base material is still firmly rooted in the industrial camp, but as tonight’s stellar performance showed, their affinities are more diverse than such a loaded label like ‘industrial’ would suggest. Indeed, for my money, that label is almost redundant for an act that now has so smartly woven together their various influences into something altogether more exciting and forward-looking. 

This was a storming set that wound up being the best Kommand+Kontrol gig I’ve been to so far. The three members’ energy and enthusiasm for their output was tangible and infectious. If there were any in the audience tonight who were unfamiliar or unsure of K+K, they were left in no doubt by the end of the band’s time on stage as to whether or not you are with these guys 100% or you’d rather stick to the safe and the familiar. No surprise perhaps to learn that I’m a fully paid up member of the Kommand+Kontrol kamp. After every gig they do they are likely to be winning hearts and minds with every performance. More importantly, those hearts and minds are the ones most open to new ideas, new ways of doing things. And that’s important. For without the kind of pushing at the very edges of genres like K+K are doing, any scene will stagnate and eventually die off. In their own way then, they are helping to ensure a vibrant and exciting future for electronic music. And that will always get my vote. 

Kommand+Kontrol setlist: Intro, Alive, Our Domain, Time Flies, Exceed Excel, Violent or Gentle, Watched by Machines, I Promise, Secret Police 

I’d spent a few days in the run-up to this evening listening to Eisenfunk on YouTube. Like thousands of others I was familiar with their single Pong, taken from 8-Bit their EBM tribute to the 8-bit computer technology of the 1970s and 1980s. That time spent online was a real education. I was surprised at how much more magisterial, martial even, some of Eisenfunk’s previous work is. I didn’t anticipate that so much would be instrumental either. The combination of the two changed any ideas I had about watching ‘just enough’ of their set to review them. Instead, it ensured I was to stick around to the very end to sample as much of their sound as I could. 

But there is a reason that Pong, complete with its (shudder) ‘cyber-dancing’, is their most popular song on YouTube. And I guess I might have seen it coming, but this was way more playful that I was expecting. Well, now I’ll add to that YouTube legacy by uploading footage of tonight’s gig. All three were clearly out to have some fun with this and would have felt disappointed had this London audience not joined in. They did and what followed was something of a party time for all involved. For me it unfortunately meant that all those songs that I'd heard online that I'd least expected were not performed tonight. So, the Eisenfunk I did get to see, was the Eisenfunk that casual surfers will have turned up. Bands need a brand to stand out and it seems with their latest album and accompanying playful videos, Eisenfunk has found one that works for them right now. I wonder if that means the older stuff I liked is consigned to history never to be performed, with the band focusing instead on ensuring that as many as possible have a 'fun' time at an Eisenfunk gig with the focus heavily on the more recent material. I hope not. 8/10

Rob Dyer

Live footage on dsoaudio's YouTube Channel