AkA/Sistrum/Microchip Junky

Hope and Anchor, London - 9 April 2016

"A subversive thrill from start to finish"

This was the second evening going under the banner Eclectic Electric - a night that pretty much does what it says on the tin. The first (at the same venue) was in November last year but I couldn't make that one - so was keen to get out tonight. The main drivers being AkA who I know well and admire, and Microchip Junky - less well known but attention grabbed from what I'd heard of theirs online.

The full line up included Chris Mines tongue-in-cheek Sudden Creation (debut album out now folks!) and top of the bill were the more rock-orientated Among The Echoes. Only, on the evening the lineup was switched around as Among The Echoes had to leave earlier than planned so swapped their headline slot with Sudden Creation. Due to my own limited train options, I couldn't stop for either. Unusually, four of the five acts on tonight's bill were solo projects, with only Among The Echoes presenting a full band on stage.

[Eclectic Electric II Banner]

Microchip Junky had the honour of opening this evening's proceedings, and even though I had an impression of what to expect, what I heard was something of a revelation. The name is a good steer as to what you can expect to hear. In fact, if the name were Microchip Punky that would be an even clearer indication (though not as good a name). Microchip Junky is one John Peacey from Durham, who is of a similar age as myself and seemingly grew up listening to much of the same music. Which clearly gives him good credentials. This was the first ever Microchip Junky live appearance.

Without any of the songs sounding like direct imitations, several times during the set I was reminded of early Cabaret Voltaire. I revelled in the unpredictability of each track despite their brevity - many clocking in at a very punk-like sub 3 mins. Meaning the audience got a value-packed 8 tracks in less than 30 minutes. Microchip Junky are precisely why I (and you should) turn up for opening acts. A subversive thrill from start to finish. Debut album Analog Punk immediately purchased after the set from Peacey who was humbly but deservedly soaking up the plaudits both punters and fellow artists were heaping upon him. 

Microship Junky Setlist: Junky, Dirty Electronic, Joshua's Code, Sega Slags, Spot Wobble, Pink Sex Blinks, Lock Up Your Daughterboards, Analog Punk

Much of Sistrum's material dates back to the period between 1981 and 1992. The project was originally a two-piece, when currently the only member Mark Smith partnered up with Peter Webb. Sadly, Webb passed away in 1997, and Smith went on to play with Troika. Last year Smith resurrected the band name Sistrum, performed at the first Eclectic Electric night and plans to release an album later this year. Apparently, tonight's set drew on both the original Sistrum and Troika material, with some songs created purely by Smith. Which explains the somewhat eclectic nature of tonight's set. Perfectly in keeping then with the title of the night then!

Instrumental opener Dune was a stand out. Whilst Dyke On A Bike I was convinced was a cover of Secession's Touch. It was only when I went over to complement Smith on his choice of cover version that I learnt that he'd never heard of Secession, let alone chosen to cover one of their tracks! The similarities around the bassline and part of the melody are remarkable. It was a shame that not more was physically played live, particularly given that Smith had hauled out a fair bit of equipment with him (with a laptop that seemed to be triggering some of the synths). I'd be interested to hear a full set of only new materail written by Smith, but understand that by going with the Sistrum name the aim may be to keep the old material alive.

Sistrum setlist: Dune, Heartfelt, Arabian Adventure, Dance, High Summer, This Masquerade, Dyke On A Bike, Let's Go To A Nightclub And Talk About War

[Microchip Junky]   [Sistrum]   [AkA]

Photos [L-R]: Microchip Junky, Sistrum, AkA

AkA's Henri Sizeret is a character. Cats, terrible 70s fashion, globetrotting travel, the search for the ultimate electronically-generated sound, burlesque, the films of Russ Meyer and heaps of irony are all as pertinent influences as the music he is inspired by. No surprise then that the resulting purely electronic (and essentially instrumental) sounds created and unleashed on the world by AkA somehow sound like all these things wrapped up in rigorously engineered sound sculptures.

Although largely confined to Mr Sizeret and a laptop live, this in no way expressed the live AkA experience. I was lucky enough to catch the first ever AkA gig where he opened the day at last year's Electro London festival. In the short, intervening period, Sizeret's comfort with standing behind a modest podium whilst putting out epic-sounding compositions has grown somewhat. First time out he understandably focused on ensuring the live debut of the AkA studio project delivered on the audio front. The accompanying visuals he constructs for each of his pieces were absent that first time out. Here, AkA's third gig, they were thankfully present adding an often suitably repetative/hypnotic visual dimension.

Not that Sizeret needed any such video distractions this time around. Rarely have I seen a solo performance utilising such limited musical equipment that has gripped me as much as this did. Reacting as if the tsunami of 1s and 0s flooding through his cables was also searing through his veins, Sizeret was throwing shapes, striking poses, physically responding to the audio output of his own compositions. Unexpectedly then, this was as captivating to watch as it was to hear. A very fine conclusion to my evening indeed. 8/10

AkA setlist: Drift, Man War, Deep Under, Bi Polar, Play Loud, More, Clean Your Ears

Review: Rob Dyer
Photos: Mark Smith (Microchip Junky), Rob Green (AkA), Chris Mines (Sistrum)