Patrick Widdess reports on System 7 and Eat Static - The Junction, Cambridge, 26 May 2011

Junction 1, The

Fans of electronic music were treated to a double header at the Junction by two pioneering acts who share a rich musical history and heritage. Both grew out of the prog-rock psychedelic scene in the late 80s and early 90s. Steve Hillage and Miquette Giraudy formed System 7 after leaving Gong and Eat Static was formed by members of Ozric Tentacles. Over the years their output has remained independent and experimental with regular collaborations and side projects keeping their music fresh and varied.
    System 7 opened with a set largely consisting of recent releases. Their live sound is more organic than a lot of electronic music with complex arrangements of loops combined with tough beats and Steve’s guitar adding a rocky edge. It’s modern dance fortified by vintage psychedelia. The length of the pieces and the distinct movements they go through gives them a symphonic quality. More importantly it’s good to dance to with bass so strong it physically pushes into you.
    Steve and Miquette seemed intent at the start but as the crowd warmed up Miquette could be seen smiling and jiving in her glittery dress. Steve’s guitar playing grew more energetic and fluid. It brilliantly complemented the bed of ambient loops on Hinotori and after sticking to gentle melodies and simple embellishments for most of the set Steve gave it his all at the close with power chords and shreds that are the pride of any rock guitarist.
    Eat Static kept energy levels up in the second half. Merv Pepler is the sole member since the departure of fellow founding member Joie Hinton. Their music frequently has an extraterrestrial theme and it was an alien imposter with large eyes, golden hood and a white robe who took to the stage. Whichever planet he came from they certainly have good electronica. He took control of the sound system unleashing a sonic assault at full volume whilst looking quizzically at the Earthlings going wild on the dance floor. As the tempo and temperature rose the creature became more excitable and removed his head then pulled away the robe to reveal a well developed human torso. It was Merv all along!
    He continued a non-stop run through his musical output of the last couple of decades. He’s worked with every genre of electronic music ranging from chilled out ambient soundscapes to hardcore techno. It was mostly the latter on stage in a high energy, ninety minute show. Mellow interludes would be cut off abruptly by pounding beats pushing the Junction’s sound system to the limit.
    After midnight he returned to the stage for his encore set, a banging remix of synth classic Popcorn that grew into an extended mashup of beats and samples that had the middle-aged ravers in the audience flagging.
    System 7 delivered live electronica with more depth and nuances but it was Eat Static’s showmanship and intensity that took the crowd’s energy to exit velocity. Hopefully tomorrow’s electronic artists are listening.

Writer: Patrick Widdess