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Metamono - Crystal Palace Park

17th June 2017

Metamono - Crystal Palace Park

I’d been listening to a fair amount of electronica late at night including Rubycon, an old favourite from my school days and a couple of Redshift albums, Halo and Ether to help me sleep, treating the organically developing music as a relaxant as London’s overnight temperatures crept up into the low twenties, and on the 17th June I managed to drag myself out of a stifling house into the brilliant sunshine and weekend heat to witness Metamono playing on their home turf, at the Crystal Palace Overground Festival.

I discovered the band by accident following a trawl through the second-hand vinyl in the basement of Bambinos in Upper Norwood where after a brief discussion with Mark Hill, the record department owner, about Tangerine Dream’s Phaedra which I was in the process of buying, I was handed a promotional postcard which included his email address. Following this encounter, my subsequent blog was all about Crystal Palace and as part of my research I investigated ‘metamono’ which formed part of Hill's email, discovering them to be an electronic musical trio formed in 2010 and who, in September 2013, featured as The Guardian’s ‘new band of the week’
It was evident to me that Hill knew his electronica from the previous time I’d visited the store. I’d rifled through a box of (largely) Tangerine Dream-related vinyl that hadn’t quite made it downstairs to the record bins, selecting a copy of Edgar Froese’s Aqua and inquiring about the chances of locating Epsilon in Malaysian Pale. Evidently a huge fan of the genre, Hill is actually a fine artist who just coincidentally runs Sound Vinyl in Bambinos basement and plays vintage analogue keyboards (and radio, and Stylophone) with Crystal Palace’s answer to Düsseldorf’s best. The other two members making up the group are Jono Podmore and Paul Conboy. Podmore, as Kumo, has collaborated and released albums with Irmin Schmidt of Can; Conboy has worked with Bomb the Bass and is responsible for film soundtracks. What is most intriguing about this collective, something right up my street, is their manifesto. Dutifully read out before the performance, they eschew any form of digital sound production and limit their sound sources to found and repaired analogue instruments, to reflect the struggles of society. They believe that music has lost its transformative power, subsumed in a corporatist-capitalist order and use their own music “to kick against the pricks.”
Music journalist David Stubbs has postulated that this musical form, most readily recognised as 70s Krautrock, is being referenced by groups who want to branch out in different directions and suggests that returning to basics and moving on from there is a quicker route to innovation than by simply evolving. This fits in with the Metamono ethic, that “Our limitations will be our aesthetic.”
Comparing Metamono’s found instruments and their hint of scrap heap upcycling to Node, the first electronica act I’d seen live, was quite revealing. That 2015 gig at the Royal College of Music afforded electronica suitable recognition as a distinct, legitimate musical form but it was the hardware on display, reputedly the largest collection of analogue synthesizers ever seen outside a recording studio and rumoured to be worth around £500,000 which formed a major contrast with Metamono’s good-for-the-planet recycling chic. It was pointed out to me that the audience for Node was replete with the great and the good from the UK electronica scene. I don’t know if any member of Metamono was present but the working backgrounds of the personnel in the two groups are very close: music production and film score composition.
Metamono managed to get a well-balanced mix from a temporary stage in Crystal Palace Park during a 45-minute set filled with fun, joyful music. A sequencer, or the possible employment of an old rhythm machine, produced deep dance beats where the pressure waves could be seen to move the material on the bass speakers and this acted as a summons to members of the crowd, who got to their feet to dance in front of the stage. The top line was created by a classic, thin late 70s or early 80s synthesizer which in turn was filled out with Podmore’s Theremin and some well-place radio transmission, used most effectively on their cover version of Kraftwerk’s Europe Endless, a track they had reworked and released as a single a week before the 2016 EU referendum as a plea to everyone to vote ‘remain’.
They managed to create a party vibe which was evidently appreciated by the large crowd while appearing to enjoy themselves too, but reading their manifesto shows they have a serious message about not just the music business but about the way our lives are run by vested interests. It seems perfectly fitting that Crystal Palace, the site of the People’s Palace after its season in Hyde Park should produce an inclusive, outward-looking band playing music on found and refurbished instruments and applying a doctrine which seemingly restricts but actually liberates their creativity.
Metamono were without a doubt my band of the week.

This gig review was sourced from the blog ‘Electronica’ which was originally posted on 20th June 2017 but is now no longer accessible

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