It’s hard to know quite where Yves De Mey & Peter Van Hoesen production’s as Sendai ought to sit; categorising them neatly into one or even a few brackets is invariably difficult. Their dark, warped take on electronic music has been bending minds (and confusing journalists) since they first debuted the project on Van Hoesen’s own Time to Express imprint back in 2009.
Since then, far from rationalising or consolidating their sound, they have instead pushed the boundaries even further; their recent contribution to Stroboscopic Artefacts’ Monad series being as much in line with the Musique Concrete movement of the 1950s as the techno or drone signifiers they have attempted to be classed by in the past.
With each artist’s history spanning back to the dawn of the noughties (and before if you count their previous aliases), we decided they would make fine candidates to contribute to our ‘That Time When’ series, discussing five of the most memorable gigs they have attended.
Yves: I’ve seen quite a few remarkable concerts in my life, but the first one that really opened my ears was an Einstürzende Neubauten concert. I was 17 or 18 at that time, the setting was a small concert venue in a small town somewhere in Flanders. The concert was part of the “Haus der Lüge” tour. Sad coincidence, the concert was the same day as the day my German language teacher committed suicide. I was very fond of that man, and the EN gig all of a sudden became a cathartic experience. Regardless of the personal twist, it was a blast. The sound pressure, the attention to detail in what sounds like chaos, the screeching voice of Blixa Bargeld and the otherworldly percussion almost made my ears and eye pop out. Hearing sounds being born from scrap and junk, beats made from oil being set on fire on stage… I went home with a solid buzz in my ears, a melted brain and a heavy heart.
Yves: It’s a gig i already mentioned in an interview with Stray Landings: Autechre. It wasn’t the first time I heard them live, but this one struck me in particular. I think it was after the release of Confield: all their gigs before had strong similarities to their albums, i.e. I could recognize tracks. But this one was different; you could say it sounded generative, but it was more than that. It didn’t have the random sensation you often get with generative music, it sounded much more controlled, and although not a same sound was heard twice, it felt like a firm body of work. The first thing that came to my mind if I had to compare the impact of the gig was the combination of a hardcore visit to the dentist and being cut-up by a bread slicer machine at your local supermarket. Of all the times I’ve heard Autechre live, this one left the most vivid memories.
Peter: On top of my list is a concert by Front 242 at Ancienne Belgique in Brussels in 1991. If memory serves me right it was part of a series of two or three concerts, all of them sold out immediately. For me this was when the band was at its peak. I remember standing on the balcony, right above the PA where Daniel Bresanutti was leading the charge. I had never seen a band where one of the band members was not on stage but behind the mixing desk. As the band was performing in their home town the event had an intense ‘amongst us’ vibe, everyone felt really connected, something that was rare in Brussels back in those days. Musically I remember hearing a lot of tracks from the _Front by Front _album. As far as electronic music goes this is one of my most intense early moments.
Peter: Number two is an aggregate of several Autechre concerts which I attended between 2005 and 2010. I guess I saw them live three or four times in that period, but for me these performances are very much linked together. Each time it felt as if the audience was receiving a message from the future. But at the same time there was a playfulness involved, a will to bring some sort of relativity to what is otherwise a very serious endeavour. I guess that’s what makes Autechre to special. I really look forward to the next concert in October.
Peter: The last one is My Bloody Valentine in Eindhoven, a couple of years ago. Yves, his brother and I drove down there from Belgium, all three of us being MBV fans. During the whole concert we stood, or should I say, were pressed against the back wall. Our ear plugs were in full effect, but I still remember the incredible sound pressure level that was projected at us. I felt like being sandwiched between the sound system and the back wall. This was probably the loudest concert I ever attended. How the rest of the crowd closer to the speakers was able to endure this still is beyond me. But above all else, there was Bilinda Butcher’s ethereal voice floating amidst an ocean of blissful distortion.