Shinjuku Thief: Live in London Review 2005

Previously unpublished

Shinjuku Thief / Des Esseintes / Diskrepant / SRMiexner: Live in London: 18th February, 2005

The Corsica Arts Club, Elephant & Castle, London

Given the show was 1 of only 4 that Australian project Shinjuku Thief were to present on their mini European Tour, this should have been reason enough for punters to venture out on a bitterly cold London evening.  But being armed with prior experience of such gigs being notorious in their inability to run to a schedule, bets were hedged to arrive late: a bet that did not pay off.  Arriving during the concluding moments of SR Meixner’s set (a former member of the disbanded Contrastate: a performance art oriented dark ambient/ industrial project), the stage set up presented an unusual scene.  With an individual behind a mixing desk (SR Meixner?), two other performance artists sat alongside a table laden with wine glasses and an assortment of food, some of which was smeared on the face of one of the performers.  From what could be gleaned of the last few minutes of the show, the performers had been generating live sound source material via contact microphones and the various items on the table, which was being further mixed and manipulated live.  It was a shame this was missed given it all seemed like quite a bit of fun…

Second artist to perform for the evening was a Swedish one man project Diskrepant, with his set consisting of laptop generated, droning electronica.  Whilst the evolving set had a nice lulled & ambient quality, for that particular point of the evening it was a touch too subtle & all too soon alcoholic refreshment at the bar seemed like a better idea.

Des Esseintes followed (another solo Swedish solo project), and livened up proceedings with a set of ominous death industrial sounds that veered off into sections of heavy pounding rhythms: but not of the danceable variety mind you.  Playing against a backdrop screening of an old horror movie, it was an engaging show, but as personal interests in this style of sound peaked a few years ago, the concluding segments were appreciated from the bar at a less ear shattering distance.

No entirely knowing what to expect from Darrin Verhagen’s headlining performance as Shinjuku Thief, in the end he easily eclipsed and outclassed the other contending acts.  The volume was suitably loud, but far more pleasing was the fact that the sound clarity was perfectly crystalline, which only added to the intensity.  Being a sort of ‘best of’ set the music chopped and changed its way through the back catalogue, but with a definite lean towards the more orchestral and bombastic oriented compositions.  Each tracks seems to arrive in rapid fire succession, heading off one moment on one tangent, only to the about face and surge off on another, but all the while retaining common threads and themes.  Given such cinematic styled music tends to lack a certain performance aspect when presented live (in it involves the performer being hunched over a series of lap tops, effects units and synths), this was of little concern for Shinjuku Thief given the utterly hypnotic visual backdrop presented.  Being specifically commissioned for the tour performances, the forever morphing and changing visuals were a stunning feast for the eye that suited the dark ominous tone of the set, whilst also giving ever so subtle prods to the ultra serious attitudes that tend to inhabit the industrial scene.

Although the night may have been held in a small and somewhat out of the way art space, there was a decent attendance for this style of music and the performances all seemed to be well received: Shinjuku Thief especially.  With the light being billed as “an evening of dark ambient electronica and gothic orchestral horror”, this was quite a reasonable summation of what was ultimately served up.

-Richard Stevenson

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