Live Reviews: Lakker

Crawdaddy 9 October 2007

The launch of Lakker’s debut album Ruido combined performances from Lakker’s Ian McDonnell, who performed solo in Dara Smith’s enforced absence, and longstanding electronica fixture Alan O’Boyle a.k.a. Decal.

O’Boyle deftly manipulated a relatively limited collection of materials that alternated between austere pure tones and occasionally chaotic wide-band noise. He opened with high-end abrasive textures that sat far above a pure, low frequency tone that resounded like a lazily plucked string. Where you might have expected a hastily assembled collection of textures to flesh out the sound spectrum, O’Boyle showed impressive restraint in his use of materials, preferring instead to cajole his limited resources through a relatively circumspect metamorphosis. He gently modulated the pure tones with more complex timbres, resulting in hard edges becoming noticeably blurred and previously narrow-band textures softening. Gradually the materials that had begun life at opposite poles began commingling effectively. O’Boyle fished about in this soupy noisescape, periodically surfacing with a new tone or texture.

If Decal’s set was a judicious exercise in blurred edges and coalescing textures, Lakker’s subsequent offering was a stylistic polygon of hard lines and sharp angles. McDonnell draws a unifying thread through a pleasingly disparate mix of influences. Always an engaging performer, he manages to make light of his many stylistic gear shifts, modulating seamlessly from crisp jazz-infused grooves through old-school rave via the odd helping of industrial metal. Lakker rubber stamps each idiomatic modulation with heavily syncopated beats that lean and lurch without ever threatening to undermine the integrity of a good groove. Rarely anchoring the music to a foursquare beat, it is more often than not an unassuming, glacial, synth-like texture – a stabilising influence on Lakker’s fitful rhythms. Every now and then calm emerged from within the tumult, but a renewed assault of juddering, sledgehammer beats was never too far away. The benign textures, that had earlier grounded the busy rhythmic structures, became gradually more abrasive, rounding out finally into the track ‘Foundation Noise’ which toyed at times with becoming a fully fledged rave anthem without ever succumbing to the expected banging beat.

It is to Lakker’s credit that their cleverly-crafted, often asymmetrical patterns can sustain sparse material for so long. Consequently when respite does finally arrive in the shape of a straight-down-the-middle-no-nonsense beat, such as on a track like ‘Melting Lacquer’ it is all the more effective for the sustained tension brought about by the broken rhythms preceding it. The group’s debut release evokes an industrial dystopia of mechanised collisions and machine gun beats occasionally reminiscent of Michael Andrews’ score for the similarly dystopian film Cypher.

It is no surprise that Lakker cite jazz drummers Tom Rainey and local fixture Sean Carpio as influences but the measured sophistication that they bring to the construction of their rhythmic patterns isn’t always borne out elsewhere. The electric piano on ‘Dusk Eyes’ sounds at times like more of an afterthought than a pivotal fixture on which to hang a track. The duo are at their best on tracks like ‘PanShelac’ and the excellent ‘New Sounds for Wind and Metal’ when they make no concessions to harmonic or melodic figures, unleashing instead the full weight of their considerable talents in an unforgiving barrage of angular collisions and twisted beats.

Published on 1 November 2007

Rob Casey is a Dublin-based musician and composer of electronic and acoustic music.

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