Sunday, 6 June 2010

He's a Liquid: John Foxx at The Roundhouse

There was a silence onstage after the DJ finished his set and Foxx's short introductory video had ended. "Come on John," and "Come on Foxxy!" came the cries from the crowd. Having never seen him before I wondered if he always needed to be so cajoled into making his appearance. But appear he did. My word, I thought, he looks rather like Robert Kilroy Silk. But when he sang he did not have the voice of Kilroy. It was a voice to make Davros sound like Jonathan Creek (then again, maybe the voice of Davros is the 'truth' of Kilroy ... ). Actually, the comparison is rather apposite. A great deal of the sounds in tonight's show - and particularly from its first third - would have been quite familiar to a fan of Dr Who in the 60s and 70s, and yet completely alien to anyone watching the BBC today (especially anyone watching Dr Who today). The scream of oscillators, the peal of arpeggiators, the juddering apocalypse of square wave distortion.

On the backdrop, projected images of utopian modernism: skyscrapers and Camel cigarette ads. Remnants of a time before tall buildings were considered high risk terror targets and cigarettes a faux pas in polite society. Remnants of a time that still dared to look forward. For all his - enormous and undeniable - influence on the music of today, he comes across somehow as just as much of an anachronism as the smiles and the cars on the screen. One new song, co-authored with Mira from Ladytron and keyboard wizard Benge (who is part of tonight's ensemble), sounds possibly even more technoprimitive than the oldies in the set. But many of the images (shots of the tube, council blocks, spaghetti junction, and so forth) highlight a peculiarly English modernism that we are so often asked to forget about. To treat the modern as something that happened overseas, while England will be forever Basingstoke, Blackpool and Tunbridge Wells. Foxx embodies as much another England as another time, an England that did go to the moon (if only via the EMS Synthi A).