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Not Squares
Live Review...
Hype Williams, Not Squares, Third Man Theme
There's already a buzz of people swarming around the Black Box as Third Man Theme take to the stage. The trio play mesmerising new-wave and kraut-rock influenced tunes which purr with a bittersweet pop sensibility - the songs are by their nature repetitively and intensely driven but with twinges of melody that make it cohesive, intriguing and fresh, while the simple but deft combination of drums, guitar and synths works. And although seemingly little-exposed on the local gig scene, are certainly worth looking out for.

It's apt, then, that Third Man Theme make for a gentle warm-up to the all-out, disco-punk assault of Not Squares. From the slowly churning build-up of second song 'Release the Bees' which breaks with an almost primal screech, it sets everything alight for the rest of the set. The spikey, rebellious electro created by the dynamic of synthesisers, bass and drums sounds thrilling, instilling a vibrancy in the crowd in a way that's just as interesting and exciting to watch as it is to dance to. Never fading in their unrelenting, uncompromising energy, Not Squares are tirelessly engaging until the final, riotous chorus of 'Asylum' finally lets the crowd breathe.

Straddling a fine line between music and art, Hype Williams are a mysterious, experimental duo who provide a link between the intelligent dance music end of the electronica spectrum occupied by the likes of Aphex Twin, and the influx of dreamy, fuzzy bedroom producers such as Washed Out or Gold Panda.

But after a night of clever pop and thrashing indie-dance, perhaps it's an experiment too far. As the Black Box contorts into a dark cave pulsating with an intense undercurrent of dub, the once burgeoning crowd dissipates into a thin fringe of onlookers gazing at the pair standing either side of a table heavily laden with effects and synthesisers, poking and prodding at cables, knobs and buttons. This isn't music that's meant to be gripping in its performance, by any means, but the sound should make up for it.

Sometimes it does - when the tremble of something approaching dubstep echoes around the room it's dancey and smart enough to make people move, and intriguing enough for the listener. But this is rare, and at other points the minimalist veneer of heavy beats interspersed with dripping effects and samples feels lacking in real substance or focus, becomes indeterminate and veers on tedium. It's intense, but also hollow - a set crafted out of a single arc of a soundscape which ends on a sudden fade out, while Hype Williams themselves disappear as anonymously as they arrived.

It's just the wrong occasion for such an act. Not Squares end on a breathless, electrifying scream, so a stumble into the void of extreme left-field electronica afterwards can expect to be little else than a let-down by comparison - it's just unfortunate that Hype Williams by nature can do little to recover from this.

Aoife McKeown

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Gig Details
Venue: The Black Box
Location: Belfast
Date: 29/3/2011

Related Links
+ Hype Williams
+ Not Squares
+ Third Man Theme