Demdike Stare/Raime/Blackest Ever Black residency
(16/08/2012) The Waiting Room, Stoke Newington
Although I hadn’t heard of the label Blackest Ever Black before attending The Waiting Room in Stoke Newington last Thursday (out-of-the-loop blasphemy, I know) I had heard of Demdike Stare, experiencing their terrifically heady and horrifying synthesis of visceral productions and visual abstractions of obscure horror film footage. Earlier exposure had left good impressions but had also rocked any semblance of serenity reserved for social convention that night; wide-eyed, head nodding (in lieu of calm, appreciative acknowledgement) like one of those kitsch back-of-car Churchill figurines, driven to embarrassingly unhinged conduct by canned lager and techno.
For a humid summer night though, something likely to be as unflinchingly dark, moody and surreal as this prior experience, didn’t appear initially attractive. But I quickly reneged on any preconceived negativity, having experienced sets from Demdike & co, which built gradually in mood, with what seemed seamless continuity, if not in terms of conventional mixing, than in terms of mood and atmosphere, much like the mixtapes
Blackest Ever Black have compiled and released on their label. The label’s releases include one of the night’s residents (Raime) and a well-received, recent diversification in the form of Gareth Williams (of This Heat) and Mary Currie’s Flaming Tunes
(which is well worth a listen – an early contender for reissue of the year) Recent successes aside, Blackest Ever Black along with Demdike, proved here, that their taste in curation is just as strong, appealing and distinctive as their own material.
Descending the basement stairs, The Waiting Room resembled (at the outset) a goth-populated, polished school disco; grainy black and white footage constituting the backdrop, baleful music and a crowd content to remain awkwardly shadowed in the fringes. Eventually the room filled assuming a slightly claustrophobic intimacy, which aptly reflected the music played. There was trepidation exhibited from some, glances which remained uncertainly fixed on other crowd members as if to check the consensus, but the residents did well to ingratiate the crowd into an immersive atmosphere. Incorporating vast resonances of foreboding ambience and syncopations close to post-punk and industrial, the residents kept a fluid turnover exhibiting their tastes without little or any ceremony. You got the sense that this was a glimpse into their record collections rather than a self-conscious selection of tracks only ever likely to be short-lived inclusions in DJ charts. They brought cacophonous noise music, spectral breaks of grand ambience and snatches of offbeat punk-funk (sounding like ESG assaulted by Cabaret Voltaire) into proximity, managing to somehow bring in some slap bass discordance (reminiscent of A Certain Ratio, circa ‘Early
’) at one point (which my friend enthusiastically noted with a perplexed but eventually pleased expression) without inciting raised eyebrows but lively recognition. Though, this may overstate the playfulness. Balanced with this no-wave play/ (vaguely) Mute Records-esque assortment was an avant-garde taste which was daring and refreshing, rather than an unimaginative accommodation of expectations. I also distinctly recall how the monochromatic visuals consisted frequently of car journeys; the rush of roads converging suitably with the drive and pulsation of the music, heightening the sensory experience and giving the crowd something hypnotic and brooding to occasionally focalize their attention on.
As a relative outsider to Blackest Ever Black's sphere, I was surprised to the extent I was impressed and subsequently hooked. The glimpses of playfulness within the entrancingly saturnine atmosphere combined with a frequent, avant-garde intensity, proved an assembly ideal for an underground alternative. The crowd were indoctrinated into Demdike and Blackest Ever Black's doom-laden display and it seemed that they, like me, were supremely won round.