Sequencer is a 'variety club' night held at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London every once in a while. Schneider TM and Max Tundra were the main draws tonight, but in many ways, I got the most out of bottom-of-the-biller Cursor Miner (spelt incorrectly on the flyer).
Shuffling onto the stage with guitar in hand and laptop nearby, this was way up there in the minimalist stage presence stakes, but it didn't matter. "The library, the library, it's much better than watching TV" sang Rob Tubb (aka Cursor); "That one was for all the kids out there" he added. Music with a message then. Although never quite shaking off the awkwardness, Tubb nevertheless quickly engages an initially indifferent audience and soon has them laughing and dancing. Which wasn't surprising as Cursor Miner is a very entertaining blend of personality and scatter-gun musical genres sucking in techno, industrial, glitch, noise and metal. But it was the frequent combination of witty lyrics and clockwork fairground melodies that kept prompting thoughts of the late, great Fad Gadget.
With his opening pitch: "I'm gonna play some songs... hope you like them.", mad jazz-groove electronica exponent Max Tundra was off. The following 45 minutes were actually far more entertaining and less pretentious than his latest (Mastered by Guy at The Exchange on Domino) suggested. The extreme stylistic ricocheting within individual tracks was still very much in evidence but the beats that kept cropping up meant the set tonight at least had some remote points of reference that enabled the listener to anchor oneself a little. Which is just as well.
Looking like a some joyously insane professor oblivious to his condemnation to death row (he was dressed neck to feet in red) genetically spliced with an over exuberant monkey (that mop of curly black hair and hirsute forearms), Max Tundra's inventive and eclectic plundering of influences could leave the weak in gibbering confusion.
Flitting from one side of the stage to the other to get his clever hands on everything from retro organ keyboard, to toy xylophone, to Casio VL Tone, and even a Game Boy, if nothing else, Max Tundra could hardly be called predictable or unimaginative. Which cannot be said for some of his peers. Sister Becky appeared twice to join in the on-stage circuit training and to add some beautifully pitched vocals. Chucking 70s Bowie synths in with Elton John at his finest piano pieces, Tundra ran the gamut from hypnotic hard techno to sumptuous beat jazz. When it came to the whimsical cover of Paul McCartney's Coming Up, I still wasn't sure if his reading of the lyrics from the album inner sleeve was genuine or merely more deliberately disarming theatrics. Whatever the truth, there's no denying the guy's onto something.
When German techno-logist Schneider TM took up position on stage behind a vast mixing desk, it was clear that the tomfoolery and tongue-in-cheek amusements of the earlier part of the evening was well and truly over. That's not to try and paint Dirk Dresselhaus and his accomplices as austere Teutonic traditionalists - not at all. Anything that followed on from Max Tundra was going to look a mite dowdy by comparison - no matter how good they were. And that's just what happened. Despite being the reason I turned out for the event, and despite some wonderful moments of synchronicity with the refreshingly simple abstract projections, Schneider TM were the victims of unsubtle support billing.
Risking accusations of lazy journalism, there was something tangibly Kraftwerkian about their performance from behind their equipment. It was only later in the set Dresselhaus that broke out from the confines of the back of the stage and sauntered down the front, crooning for all his worth (soon accompanied by some effective guitar work from one of his colleagues). The massive beats seemed to work best when they were offset by an almost whimsical quirkiness set by the lead synth lines and only then did this seem in keeping with what had already passed.
Unexpectedly then, although Schneider TM were undoubtedly the most polished of this Sequencer's trio, my first vote has to go to Rob Tubb's Cursor Miner for not only flatly refusing to stick with a great idea when he had one, but to go off on a wild tangent and yet pull in even more inspirational genre bending delights. Although I'd seen flyers for Sequencer before, this was my first attendance at an event. Judging things by tonight, it won't be my last.