Rocket Girl Night: Pluxus/Füxa/July Skies

ICA, London - 2 February, 2002

"The slightly jazzy horn created a late night New York City mood"

[Rocket Girl Night flyer] English label Rocket Girl specialises in not specialising. Artists on its roster take in electro pop, indie, ambient psychedelia, space rock and 60s-inspired guitar pop. So this label night at least promised some variety. Only having a Rocket Girl compilation to go by, I had few expectations or preconceptions of which artists would and would not appeal. So I got their from the start and took each one as it came.

[July Skies] July Skies are two young lads and their guitars. The sound recalls early 4AD with swathes of reverbed guitars and ambling melodies. The Cocteau Twins were briefly touched on but the most apparent influence was The Durutti Column. Their set floated from one instrumental piece to the next but it retained a distinctive quality throughout. It came as no surprise to discover after the gig that July Skies have remixed a track for that other reverb abuser Yellow6.

Coldharbourstores went in one ear and out the other without really registering so I supported the bar during their set. Six-piece Füxa were next and I learned that the name is (slightly disappointingly) not pronounced as I'd hope but more like the flower fuchsia. Despite the projections of circuit boards, this had a valve-like warmth about it. This was largely helped by the live use of a horn and live drums. The slightly jazzy horn created a late night New York City mood. Like driving in the small hours, the neon [Half of six-piece Füxa] liquor signs of the streets reflecting off the windshield. In the middle was a table with a bunch of equipment on it, including a Theremin and Mooger Fooger pedal box, producing a variety of squeaking and bleeping effects.

As the projections morphed into polka dots, so the set wound its casual way onward, with long instrumentals coming to the fore. As the groove developed, the drums drove it all forward in an envelope of warbling noises. But it was that horn which really gave Füxa's set that something extra. By the closing moments this had progressed into a psychedelic space jam with projections from A Clockwork Orange merging the senses.

Leaving Mazarin to wallow in their Monkees-influenced 60s guitar pop, I returned for headliners Sweden's Pluxus (pronounced 'Plooksus'). Their stage set up comprised of a barrage of keyboards, modular synths and other boxes stretching from one side of the ICA's stage [Mad Swedes Pluxus] to the other. The four guys sporting a nerdy techno image, complete with large, thick, black-framed spectacles. Projections from 80s CGI classic Tron (cheekily pre-empting Ladytron's much publicised Ladytron vs Tron night due at the very same venue just a couple of weeks later), were well matched with the rapid fire, Super Mario Bros soundtrack of manic tunes and bouncy bleeping.

But it wasn't long before I was beginning to OD on this saccharine-sweet nonsense. The running around and pratt falling, face down onto the stage, was more annoying than amusing. Pluxus sounded like dozens of electro pop children's TV show themes all thrown together. There were a couple of 'darker' instrumental pieces, and these were far more arresting. Some of the melodies reminded me of Ladytron, but Pluxus don't seem interested in sustaining a 'cool' image - they just wanna have fun - so off they went, into videoland.

Rob Dyer