Standing outside XOYO the tension is quite literally palpable. The dull thud of bass resounds in the crowded alley and the queue surges back and forth, restless to be inside. It’s getting late but they can’t possibly start before they let anyone in, surely?
Finally, the dam breaks and we flow inside, only to be greeted by a very skinny young man clambering onto the stage. Becoming Real (aka Toby Ridler) gives the crowd a wary glance and a polite, if perfunctory, “I hope you have a good night” and then we’re straight into it, whatever ‘it’ is. He describes the sound he makes as ‘Ghost Step’ and on record that’s a pretty good fit, but live his spectral blend of lo-fi, glitch and two-step/hip-hop (on EPs ‘Fast Motion’ and ‘Spectre’) is replaced by a harder sound.
Becoming Real’s awkward first impressions are forgotten as he gets to work behind his laptop. Kicking off with some stop/start beats, suddenly the bass kicks in and Ridler begins to move as if possessed by some UK Bass poltergeist: jerking limbs, jumping and moving in time with the rhythms. Snippets of distorted grime vocals bubble up slightly beyond reach, inviting unfair comparison to Burial, but this is music inspired by nights and days around London, not just melancholy late nights. When he hits his stride, you really get the feeling that you’re watching one of the most exciting new electronic/post-dubstep/whateveritiscalledthisweek acts around.
Like Becoming Real has done with London, between them, Nosaj Thing and Flying Lotus have painted a picture of 21st century LA in my head that I know is a pure myth. If I ever visit I will be massively disappointed that it isn’t all futuristic angles and pulsing energy. As reserved as ever, Nosaj Thing/Jason Chung takes the stage and a theme emerges; he gives a quick wave before firing up the laptop and projectors. Again, there is a marked contrast between the woozy blend of electronica and hip hop on ‘Drift’ and the sharp percussive beats we’re treated to tonight as snares and snaps crash from the PA.
I’m as excited about seeing the live visuals as I am about hearing him play. The stage is bathed in minimal, blinding white. As the pace picks up the edges begin to shrink black, pulsing with the music, Nosaj Thing chops and slices and the energy in the room builds and stretches with every note. Dropping hard percussive beats and skittering melodies, the unassuming man behind the laptop is bathed in showers of geometric shapes. Then it all goes crazy as shades of liquid blue, yellow and green begin to flow over him. By the time he drops his remix of ‘Islands’ by the XX the projections have become almost hypnotic and the assembled crowd responds by going absolutely wild.
You can say you what you want about post-dubstep, lo-fi or glitch not really being dance music, but as night’s like tonight prove, when it’s played by someone who knows what they’re doing it has the ability to light up a dancefloor like nothing else.
This post originally appeared on Spoonfed on 8 July 2011