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Icebreaker International/Appliance (live)

Icebreaker International @ The SpitzThe Spitz, London
7 June 2001
ApplianceThe Spitz tends to look different every time I go there. Tonight it is a late arrival just in time to see Appliance play their version of Krautrock-inspired Electronica. Projections on small screens around the room show Rand McNally maps of the Great Lakes areas of the US, Chicago Art Institute-like photos of fall/winter nature scenes, and stage backdrop of goldfish tank. Appliance seem to have a healthy loyal following here for support. The bloke on vocals has a nice singing voice and they range their own way into sounding a bit Jesus & Mary Chain; fuzzy, lightly motor-ish, but on the whole, uninspiring. I have got to face the million flight walk downstairs to the loo before Icebreaker International, which is not the easiest task, but made even worse by intolerable heat and mustiness. The Spitz should really consider some ventilation options.
Icebreaker International Surviving the trip back up that hellish bunch of stairs, we find a table and arrange ourselves just in time for Leon Muraglia‘s evening comment: “Guitars!? Surely not!” Seems the prevailing opinion is that Icebreaker is yet another electronic outfit – programming only. Well…. a thing I like about bands I barely know is when they start a set and the music convenes a memory to me. Icebreaker International’s album Trein Maersk has stayed in little air pockets of my mind for ages now. The Maersk container ships, the good as Kraftwerk Kraftwerk imitations, the kind of sad melody to what could be (but isn’t) too twee. They even seem to have their NATO i.d. badges clipped in place on the front of their NATO-worthy suits. They are just two guys, a laptop, a synth, and indeed, a six string. They star behind themselves in a video which is presumably a documentary of their trip round aural seas collecting sound sources for work. With roving footage of dull grey oceans and close-ups of banal segmented trays of electrical connectors, one might think they were epitomizing boredom and setting it to music. But then the music is so not dull and the simplicity surpasses minimalism at a trillion knots per hour.
Icebreaker InternationalThe plainness is stupendous and obvious as genius can be obvious. One man looks like the singer from Golden Earring or Victor the Cleaner from La Femme Nikita. The other man, the one wielding the guitar looks like that too, but sweeter. I feel sorry for them in this stuffy room in their stuffy suits, but I also realize that they are playing parts as they play their music. And they stick so close together onstage, so their heat may be their own fault. Or perhaps they have to stay out of the way of the projectors. The strangest thing is ongoing that all these boring images merge with their stark sounds and alleviate ennui altogether. Container vessels become as interesting as battle ships; programmed percussions and rhythms become soulful. The NY Stock Exchange, The Gulf War, Waco, The Alamo, plain people, Japanese newscasts, The Bush governorial campaign, Disney, welfare and the World Trade Center aerials build up with bombastic music, climactic crescendo crushing electronics and subsonics that should raise a crowd to its feet, but helps one sit still and relax all the same. These men preside simply over their gallery of banality then leave, too quickly and leave us all wishing for more.

The Prince of Iraq's armed forces?

-Lilly Novak-

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