Radio Soulwax, Newcastle University, Newcastle

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The Independent Culture

Me? I'm mainly here to see Vitalic. Vitalic is the nom de synth of a Frenchman called Pascal Arbez-Nicolas. His album, OK Cowboy, pitched midway between the electroclash aloofness of Miss Kittin and the digital funk of Daft Punk, is a thing of wonder. If someone had asked you, when you were eight years old, what pop music would sound like in the 21st century, this is very likely what you might have imagined. OK Cowboy sounds like the noise blaring from the stereo of a concept car that hasn't been built yet, the soundtrack for planets that have yet to be discovered.

It sounds, in short, like music from the far-off future. And that - due to an inconsiderate alteration in the running order of which nobody thought to inform anyone (least of all me), and which saw Arbez-Nicolas relegated to a ridiculously early slot - is when I and the many others who missed him will finally, if ever, get to see Vitalic perform: the far-off future.

Instead, I get to see German boffin Headman - responsible for that marvellous funked-up remix of Franz Ferdinand's "Dark Of The Matinee" - graciously drop Erol Alkan's instrumental mix of Franz's "Do You Want To", as well as "You Gonna Want Me" by Tiga feat Jake Shears (out on Monday), the track which, hearing it over a mega sound system, I am utterly convinced is the dancefloor tune of 2005.

Then it's time for Soulwax live. And it is live: the white shirts of the Dewaele brothers may be lit green by the glow from their iBooks, their bass and guitar may occasionally hang limp, but the drums are real and the keyboard riffs are plinked out manually. In the past I've noticed the abyss between 2 Many DJs' status as world-beating decks' demons and that of their day job, Soulwax, as unremarkable indie rock band. The Belgians' electrified, pulsating second album, Any Minute Now, went a long way towards rectifying that.

In 2005, they've taken things further still. Any Minute Now has been completely remixed and re-released under the name Nite Versions (inspired by Duran Duran's pioneering, early Eighties 12-inch "Night Versions"). These already eminently danceable cuts have been souped up to include snatches of, say, Paul McCartney's "Temporary Secretary" or, most gloriously, Lipps Inc's "Funky Town" in "NY Excuse" (rebranded "NY Lipps").

Iconoclasm, then, is part of the Dewaele's DNA (one track proclaims "James Brown is dead!"), yet so is iconography - their cover of Daft Punk's "Teachers" incorporates a list, à la Mylo's "Destroy Rock & Roll", of Soulwax's musical heroes, from Steppenwolf to T Rex.

The distinction between Soulwax the band and 2 Many DJs is more blurred than ever. Behind the decks, the Dewaeles spin a mixture of functional four-to-the-floor thudders leavened with mood-lifting anthems ("Pump Up The Jam" by Technotronic sends the place crazy).

One of the brothers plays two snare beats - beats which are instantly familiar to anyone who loves music as the intro of a certain punkpop classic - and puts them on a repeat loop, twisting them inside-out using every effect available (reverb, flange, echo, phase) until finally he releases the suspense and lets it play. It is, of course, "Teenage Kicks" by The Undertones.

Why, I wonder, is this the only out-and-out rock tune of the night, and why does this one get the most extravagant build-up? I check the time, and it all makes sense. The clock has ticked past midnight; it's John Peel Day.

s.price@independent.co.uk

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