The crowd casually mingling around at this Leaf Records night was, as expected, extremely trendy, many making the humble act of smoking a cigarette look pretentious. But, hey, it goes with the territory. With Leaf comfortably in the (entirely unofficial, indeed imaginary) dsoaudio Top 5 UK Labels list at the moment, one would expect some cutting-edge originality, risk-taking or just damn fine music making, tonight promised to be a treat.
Ably fulfilling the classic 'supporting' role this evening were guitar meddlers Rothko. Like their artist namesake, this British three-piece paid in broad panels of tone and hue. Confessing that tonight's set comprised of "basically all new material... even new to us", Rothko are not the best of bands to 'stand in front of and watch'. Dingwalls isn't a venue well suited to their music either - a more informal club space or chilled-out environment - something a little softer than the functional interior offered by this long-running Camden haunt would be more in keeping. The guitar, bass and flute combinations worked fine, although the troubled sense of foreboding that hung over the set like an uncomfortable apparition meant you could never really settle down.
Japanese prodigy Susumu Yokota is riding the crest of a popular wave at the moment. Each new album he releases (just some of which are licensed to Leaf for release in the UK), seems to garner praise right across the music journalist spectrum, resulting in both wide (and in some cases high profile) exposure, and inevitably raising the hopes of those in attendance.
This evening Yokota focuses not on the melodic piano works that have left their mark internationally in recent years, but more the quirky dance constructivist landscape made up of fragmentary moments of lucid ambient backdrops overlaid with eccentric beats.
The magpie approach to fleetingly dipping in and out of obscure sources wasn't entirely successful with hits and misses in equal measure. The by-way-of-introduction "Welcome to Susumu Yokota's Wonderland" and eclectic array of equipment including laptop, turntables, guitar, mixer, sampler etc. etc. ultimately promised more than was delivered.
However, it's great to know that labels like Leaf and nights like this continue to exist, giving artists like Susumu Yokota an outlet. Any enterprise that supports such unpredictable and eclectic talent deserves to flourish.