Anyone still ready to dismiss Hot Chip as geeks or middle-class ironists would be disabused of that notion as soon as the south London five-piece appear.
Blinding lights pulse at disorientating speed in time with a fierce percussive onslaught. It is a direct way of gaining attention and while their set takes plenty of diversions, this opening gambit marks their intent.
Fifth album In Our Heads features some of group’s strongest writing to date with its combination of thumping house tunes and affecting ballads, though while the past decade has seen this group develop steadily, they have stayed far enough under the radar to be taken for granted.
A penchant for clunky wordplay and a long-term passion for US r’n’b combined with a lab-rat air may help explain why they have been perversely overlooked for this year’s Mercury Prize shortlist in favour of Ben Howard. Still, the group have managed to fill this imposing venue over two nights, showing they have maintained a loyal following.
Instead of simply sequencing familiar recorded sounds, Hot Chip have stripped down their tunes and rebuilt them, sometimes with pleasingly divergent results. Drummer Sarah Jones adds a punk-funk edge to the beat while other band members help out with mammoth polyrhythmic breakdowns.
The eighties-referencing, chrome-gleaming keys from their current album are dropped in favour of Chic-style disco-funk guitar. There is a cheery, collegiate feel about this line-up, with the dishevelled Owen Clarke the chattiest member, while vocal duties continue to be shared between Alexis Taylor’s high vocal and the bear-like Joe Goddard’s more lugubrious growl.
His paean to this fraternal love, "Brothers", is transformed into a hypnotic space-rock excursion, with unhinged free-jazz touches from Terry Edwards’s saxophone. By contrast, the remorselessly catchy "Over And Over" needs virtually no adaptation, while more recent, less propulsive material successfully maintains momentum.
With its wordless group chanting, "Let Me Be Him" shows the band continue to break new ground and provides a lovely close to the set; earlier, the expansive cosmic house of "Flutes" unfolded at a leisurely pace and majestically built layers of warm synths.
Two unexpected treats come with the inclusion of a snatch from Fleetwood Mac’s "Everywhere" and the appearance of vocalist Valentina for Goddard’s solo house belter "Gabriel". At the end he asks tentatively, “Are you coming back tomorrow? It’s going to be very similar.” Can’t imagine anyone feeling short-changed by that.
- More about:
- Fleetwood Mac
- Funk Music
- No Wave (punk)
- Progressive Rock
- Woodwind Instruments