Node - Royal College of Music
27th February 2015 (with Neil Jellis)
On Friday 27th February I attended the first show in 17 years by analogue synthesizer quartet Node at the Royal College of Music. This prestigious venue seemed rather appropriate, affording electronica suitable recognition as a distinct, legitimate musical form; hardly surprising when you consider the CVs of the band members: production legend Flood; veteran producer and musician Ed Buller; film composer Mel Wesson; and Professor Dave Bessell.
Arriving in the Amaryllis Fleming concert hall, we were greeted with what had been dubbed as the largest collection of vintage analogue synthesiser equipment ever seen outside a recording studio, with an estimated value of £500000; largely made up of modular synthesizers but with a couple of mini-Moogs and a VCS3 also quite evident. The group played four pieces over two sets that lasted 90 minutes; all the material was sequencer driven but there were two distinct styles: one, a spacey ‘Berlin school’ sound that was inspired by mid 70s Tangerine Dream and the other was a more industrial sound where the sequences marked out aggressive, percussive beats as though forming the soundtrack to an imaginary film where a derelict factory had been occupied by feral denizens in a bleak vision of a dystopian near-future. Partial, fractured images of the band, interspersed with bubbles and graphics were projected onto a circular screen just above and behind the band, with real-time images captured by the video cameras trained on each of the players. The compositions weren’t all keyboards and sequencers; Dave Bessell performed with a guitar strung around his neck that he strummed lightly on a couple of occasions or used to trigger synths. For the first half of the performance I sat at the back of the auditorium, having acquired my ticket in the week before the show, and was mesmerised by the weaving sequences and the otherworld synthesizer washes as they radiated away from the stage via a series of speakers placed along the length of the hall. In the second half of the show I joined my friend Neil Jellis in the second row in the seat of someone unable to make the show, which afforded a great view of the four silent, black-clad musicians as they subtly manipulated their instrument settings.
This was a very enjoyable gig, and very different from the concerts I normally attend, being the first time I’d seen an electronica band. It was obviously regarded as something special, because the cream of British electronica had gathered for what was a rare, must-see event.
A CD of the event, Node Live (DiN 55) was released in May 2018