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Asian Dub Foundation - Anvil, Basingstoke, 24/10/2015

  by Owen Peters

published: 25 / 11 / 2015

Asian Dub Foundation - Anvil, Basingstoke, 24/10/2015


Owen Peters at the Anvil in Basingstoke watches electronica outfit Asian Dub Foundation play a gripping live soundtrack to George Lucas' 1971 scince foction cult film 'THX 1138'

Four blokes walk onto a stage full of instruments, lights, wires, laptops to appreciative applause. There are no introductions. The film begins. They begin to play. This is just one of the many delights of watching high profile bands score a film arrangement. Some of the audience are here for the music, others for the film, maybe some for both. Somehow it’s about the film and music rather than the band. Venue, The Anvil, Basingstoke…Film, ‘THX1138’... Band, Asian Dub Foundation… ‘THX 1138’ is the 1971 science fiction directorial film debut of George Lucas. The film is set in a world where sex is prohibited and its inhabitants’ movements are monitored every minute, with prescribed medication suppressing any individual thought process. It crosses from Orwell's ‘1984’ Big Brother sees all to Huxley's ‘Brave New World’ of chemically driven happiness. Faceless androids control the police state. The nameless couple played with pathos and angst by Robert Duvall and Maggie McOmie stop taking their medication which awakes feelings of love and desire. They begin to execute a plan of escape. Working against the constant state mantra of “Work hard, increase production, prevent accidents and be happy”, their small wins are replicated in scenes reminiscent of ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest’. The opening musical sequences take some working out. Other than a flute being played by Asian Dub Foundation, there seems little else going on from the quartet. It becomes apparent the original film score by Lalo Schifrin is being allowed to filter through as well. Unfortunately in parts the film's dialogue becomes difficult to pick up due to the bass and drum interplay. This is, however, short term. As the dialogue reduces, Asian Dub Foundation’s musical score develops into a respectful backdrop to the couple's struggle with survival. There is a short film before the main showing covering an interview with Lucas’s co-writer, sound designer and triple Oscar winner Walter Murch. He explains the level of detail and time he took in getting those small sounds (as in a creaking door) in his words “just right”. In parts ‘THX 1138’ is claustrophobic in its scene setting as the couple comes to terms with their new found love and need to break free from oppressive state control. Much to Asian Dub Foundation’s credit their score allows the film to breathe. They capture a good balance as to when their music needs to accompany the film, and when the film needs to move on by screen viewing only. As the action intensifies, escape routes becoming dead ends and death becoming an increasing threat have an increasing part to play in the plot. Their dream of struggle and togetherness, which is captured by a pulsating synthesizer, bass and drums and supported by guitar and a flute, drive the film on and on. With the subsequent high octane car chase (no plot spoiler here), Asian Dub Foundation raise the tempo, putting their foot down on the volume accelerator. They support the film's climactic adrenalin final scene with skilled timing. Their score sometimes tails the action, and at other times is in front, as if taunting the chase to catch them up. There is superb interplay between chase and score. Next is a really nice touch. As the film ends, Asian Dub Foundation continue playing. The lights come up. Set against a white backdrop we can see the quartet, still driving, still pounding outside of the film’s remit. Offering just a snatch of Asian Dub Foundation’s trademark drum and bass style, the quartet is in full flow. The score does have some problems allowing the film’s limited dialogue to be heard at times. However once overcome, Asian Dub Foundation’s score compliments a film which is decades ahead of its time in terms of technical complexity and vision. A project of film and score well worth seeing...“Work hard, increase production, prevent accidents and be happy.”

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Asian Dub Foundation - Anvil, Basingstoke, 24/10/2015

Asian Dub Foundation - Anvil, Basingstoke, 24/10/2015

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