I think it’d be fair to say Berlin based Ian McDonnell aka Eomac made a fairly sizeable mark on the techno scene of 2014. Alongside releasing his sophomore album, Spectre, McDonnell saw both his first solo release with Luca Mortellaro’s Stroboscopic Artefacts and the signing of his Lakker project with Dara Smith to the legendary R&S imprint. If releasing an EP via the Belgian label weren’t an achievement enough in itself, McDonnell & Smith followed this up with a second EP, ‘Mountain Divide’, blending meticulously sculpted broken-beat rhythms with their signature glacial, Aphex Twin reminiscent synthplay.
With these various feats in mind, we invited McDonnell to contribute to our ‘That Time When’ series, discussing five of his most memorable gigging experiences.
The Locust at Whelans was incredible for the sheer energy, madness, and yet tightness of the performance. Their songs are mostly less than a minute long - intense, complex blasts of rhythmic noise. And between songs they would just stand there silent and still. Then, out of nowhere, in unison, launch into the next blast of sound. I’ve never seen a band so together and so unhinged. Amazing.
I saw Pan Sonic at the Sugar Club about a week after The Locust gig - it was a good week for gigs in Dublin. The purity. Pure electronic music. Homemade synths, noise and sine waves. This was an all seated gig in a theatre-like venue in Dublin. In front of me people were squirming in their seats with their fingers in their ears. It was loud and it was physical. They were using frequencies that felt like something was trying to burrow into your ear. Ilpo Väisänen threw his synth off the table at the end and stormed off. Rock n’ roll. And very serious electronic music.
It was my birthday, I was at Bloc with loads of mates, pissed on vodka, and dancing to my favourite musician DJing, Aphex Twin. It was one of those AFX sets where he starts with mellow, quirky electronica, Depeche Mode and hip-hop and finishes with Merzbow, via Current Value, Synthacon 5, classic rave anthems and the Grandstand theme tune. The kind of DJ set I love. It was the second night he played. The night before he had played a completely different set in the same room. Two masterclass DJ sets, two nights in a row.
“The point of course is to listen. There’s no final information to be conveyed… Listening to this music is like looking at a star-filled night sky, anything else is material for an astronomy lesson.” - Christian Wolfe’s opening to his program notes for Morton Feldman’s second string quartet, which I saw performed by the Pelligrini Quartet at the NCH in Dublin.
It is famous for being almost six hours long, with no breaks. It’s a mammoth undertaking for any string quartet to perform. But a very worthwhile one I’d imagine. To be a listener on such a musical journey is quite extraordinary - to be involved in making such a sound for that length of time must be something else.
I’ve never done one of those long Berghain style DJ sets, but it must be similar - you get lost in the flow. Anyway, this piece is a beautiful, subtle and powerful piece of music. Quiet, repetitive and insistent, like a lot of Feldman’s music. It moves you to a different kind of listening, into a very dreamlike state, where a motif or a phrase might occur that triggers a memory of having heard it before, perhaps over three hours ago. It’s weird, and amazing. I’ve never had a feeling like the end of this piece, after nearly six hours of such quiet, delicate music. Nobody wanted to speak, or even breathe, in case they spoilt a really beautiful, silent moment. It was one of the most amazing musical experiences of my life, so far.
From lengthy string quartets to Keith Flint drooling onstage… I saw The Prodigy at Point Depot in 1996. When they played ‘Breathe’ I remember losing my shit - one of those moments when you are so lost in the music that all inhibitions go out the window and you are genuinely feeling quite alive. I remember thinking that this was the best night of my young life. The Prodigy had a run of gigs in the Point Depot, a venue on the docks in Dubin, between 1994 and 1997. This was my favourite one. They were my favourite band at the time, untouchable. This was just around the time they were going interstellar, after Firestarter, breaking America etc, and it is a very fond and formative memory for me.