Simian Mobile Disco were early recruits to the Nu-Rave movement. James Ford and Jas Shaw were DJing as a sideline to vent frustration at the limits of a long US tour with their "real" rock band, Simian. That band fell by the wayside, as they combined pounding DJ sets with clipped song structures on last year's Attack Decay Sustain Release. The expectant crowd for this NME Awards gig supports the switch.
The Whip, from Manchester, have gone in the opposite direction. They heavily reference indie-dance pioneers New Order on "Fire", helped by Bruce Carter's Bernard Sumneresque vocals. Their music is like time-travel: early Eighties synth-pop pumped through a rave system and mind-set, and played as if it's rock.
Simian Mobile Disco have a simpler aim: they are here to make us dance. Shaw drops to his knees at a clunky circuit-board of uncertain vintage, the centrepiece of a sonic hub that he and Ford run round like it's under alien attack. A glow-stick hurtles past Shaw's head. But the white light of the sonic-explosion music with rave roots is arrived at circuitously, Shaw seemingly absorbed with digital water-drop sounds.
Then massive, crashing chords begin; Shaw's hands are clamped to the controls, as if plugged into the mains. Faint voices hover at the edges, detail and brute force combining. The volume is ramped up to a little below the pain barrier. When that bores them, a note screams to its very limit, causing nervous anticipation of Scanners-style exploding heads. With a pinkish-white glow and strobing neon strips around their control centre, which also shoots out green beams, it is all thrilling, for a while.
There is a more subtle texture to this set than with most straight dance music. They can sound Radiohead-moody: "I Believe" mixes sugary gospel and sluggish stomps. But their rock side (Ford produced Klaxons and Arctic Monkeys, after all) is expunged. The lessons of Nu-Rave, in how easily rock and rave can mingle, and the variety of sounds people will dance to, are ignored. Simian Mobile Disco have failed to break their own circuit. Having slipped free of rock, they need to escape their latest trap.