Corner Audio/Alice Hubble
London - 16 December 2021
began to relax, feeling myself getting drawn into the rhythms"
heard of Brit Martin Jenkins' Pye Corner Audio project until a
friend thoughtfully tagged me on Facebook the day before this gig to
see if I was going. I wasn't. That is, I wasn't until I started
streaming some of PCA's radiophonic pulsations. Support came from
electronic pop musician Alice Hubble who I'd been partial to when
she appeared on the Happy Robots label in 2019.
Thursday night: sorted (thanks Clive!).
I'd been at Electrowerkz, just
20 days before. But that gig was downstairs. This one was
upstairs. There was some debate between friends about which floor
was the better. I'd never been much of a fan of up here, basically
because unless you're standing at the front of the audience (or 6ft+
tall) the view of the artists is pretty crap. Although I was told
the sound system had been upgraded. Certainly, on the back of
tonight's show, I had no complaints on that score. Oh, and I got
down the front for both acts. So I was happy enough.
Alice Hubble (real name
Hubley) had apparently stepped in after original support act Graham
Dunning had to pull out. Kitted out in a silky blue kimono-style
kaftan number and armed with a Moog Prodigy among others, Hubble
wasn't as obvious a support as Dunning but a welcome one
She shared the stage, musical duties and the occasional exchanged
smile with Tom Hilverkus (who played a little guitar on the new
album) who looked like he'd just stepped out of Romero's Night
Of The Living Dead. His bespectacled 'nerd dad' demeanor
perfectly suited the Alice Hubble throwback vibe. The two switched
equipment a couple of times which made for a nice little number of
changes in roles.
Photos L-R: Alice Hubble x2
recently released her second album, Hexentanzplatz
(literally 'witch dance place'), on Happy Robots, tonight was an
opportunity to both showcase new material and to win over some new
fans. Five of tonight's seven song set came from the new long
player. The other two taken from her 2019 debut Polarlichter.
set opened with Make Believe's creeping drone that
gradually builds up to a trippy slice of psychedelia, nicely
laying the ground for the headliner. The opening moments of My
Dear Friend has faint echoes
of Broadcast, upped the tempo slightly, got audience legs
jiggling along in time and, you could sense, was winning them
over as a late replacement.
Next up was the percussive bell intro of Still Polarlichter,
taking us further back, to a more feminine take on 70s German
prog synth territory. The mood is complemented by Hubble's
distinctive voice that flits in and out of the mix as the synths
create a dense atmosphere. English pastoral horror references in
the back projections provided a neat visual counterpoint to the
The bass synth intro to Goddess (a single taken from Polarlichter)
sounded like Reproduction era The
Human League. Clearly a good thing. While I get the vocal
style Hubble is aiming for, there were a few times that they
came across as a touch flat. Some breathing exercises to enable
a bit more projection, depth and power to hit the notes more
accurately would work wonders.
The playful Hexentanzplatz and then Power Play
from the new album followed. By now it was apparent that the
audience had more than just warmed to our late replacement, but
were whooping for more between each track. Hubble closed out her
set with the wonderful instrumental Gleichfalls, think
looping Japanese koto blended into a motorik rhythm and beat. It
was the perfect end to a set of aural ear candy, and nicely
setting us up for Pye Corner Audio.
Alice Hubble's entire set made me think back to treasured
memories of seeing Broadcast live a couple of times at the Wag
Club in 1996, when they'd just had a couple of singles out. Good
days - then and now.
Set list: Make Believe, My Dear Friend, Still Polarlichter,
Goddess, Hexentanzplatz, Power Play, Gleichfalls
Corner Audio - Although working without vocals, Martin
Jenkins' Pye Corner Audio's soundtrack electronica shares similar
influences to Alice Hubble, rooted in the radiophonic recordings of
the late 1960s and 1970s. Recall the experimental bleeping music
intros to those bathed in brown Open University science TV
programmes from the era and you're on the right track.
Maybe it was all the smoke that had accumulated by the time Jenkins
took over the stage, and that he appeared virtually in silhouette,
but there was a faintly menacing air for the first five minutes of
Pye Corner Audio's set.
However, once the first distinct melodies sauntered into the fray I
began to relax, feeling myself getting drawn into the rhythms. The
room filled with hypnotic pulsing drones, washes of sound and it was
impossible not to let their narcotic nature seduce your ears.
Photos L-R: Pye Corner Audio x2
hour or so set, the Stygian gloom was only briefly pierced by the
beams of light emanating from the projector hanging from the
ceiling. And even then it mainly highlighted the peak on Jenkins'
cap, further shrouding his face in darkness. With just fleeting
glimpses of beard, it could have been Fidel Castro up there for all
we could see of the man.
But then, this wasn't about the 'show'. Perfunctory projections of
school geometry lessons were welcome enough, but hardly required
viewing. Even the equipment was of the always underwhelming 'array
of boxes on a very large table' variety rather than towering
displays of modular synths or a melange of iconic analogue
But, tellingly, none of that mattered. This was, as it always should
be, all about the music.
Having only heard Pye Corner Audio for the first time the day
before, this was me dropping in at the deep end. The entirely
instrumental set rightly focused on the sounds and the sound. Both
were most agreeable. So it doesn't surprise me that throughout I
found myself referencing related genre artists who, I'm sure,
Jenkins would be happy to share the limelight with.
The heartbeat thumping, bossanova beats, shrill percussion and
looping melodies recalled Jean Michel Jarre. John Carpenter's
influential score to his own 1976 classic Assault On Precinct 13
emerged at one point. And the minimal dronescape ending to his set
reminded me of James Ray's
unforgettable performance of his epic 4080 Peru project 16 years
As there was so little to engage visually, it almost felt wrong to
be standing in front of Jenkins. (What were we supposed to be
looking at?) Instead, it seemed more appropriate had he been high in
a gallery looking down on the audience, the same way he was looking
down on his equipment. And below, everyone else in the room all rapt
in the sweeping pads, the beats, the atmosphere he created, just
If you experience Pye Corner Audio as a kosmic sound installation
then you'll love it. If you're expecting to 'see' anything other
than hear the music - maybe even the occasional nod from Jenkins'
face or arms - then you'll be disappointed. Still, an hour's worth
of blissed out, hypnotic drones and thoughtful ambience is not an
easy thing to turn down.
Was there much to see? No. Was there much of a 'show'? No. Could we
have easily stayed at home and listened to this? Sure we could.
But here, now, live in person something majik
The reverberating air and its impact in your stomach takes
experiencing the music to another physical dimension. It's why we
came. And why we'll continue to come to hear music performed live. 8/10
Photos: Rob Dyer