Sonic Boom | HQFU
6th September 2021
Sonic Boom plays a concise and considered set to Glasgow’s Stereo. Rhys Delany reviews.
The support for the night came from Glasgow based producer Sarah J Stanley also known as HQFU. A solo artist who specializes in electronic soundscapes and softly spoken effect soaked vocals. Her set began with a soft start but as the songs blended into one another and the beats got heavier; HQFU’s music took on a form of its own. The influences were varied as the set progressed through the motions of darkwave, techno and deep house. By the end of the set the crowd were swaying and HQFU was warmly received. Her set mirrored that of Sonic Boom, both artists stood solo accompanied only by machines; there was a sense of isolation but not loneliness.
At the risk of sounding like a sycophantic cliche; Pete Kember is an icon of the UK indie music scene. The lo-fi feedback of Spacemen 3 is still heard in the echo’s of the current independent music scene, and Kember’s own DIY electronic experiments have been modestly appreciated for a few decades. In 2020 he released his first full-length solo album in 12 years, All Things Being Equal, and tonight he presented it in full form.
When he took to the stage Kember sheepishly announced that he will be playing a ‘straight-set, only the new album, no encores’. A statement that may have rubbed some audience members the wrong way as, much like myself, they expected maybe a few Spacemen 3 classics.
As Kember switches on the various electronic components assembled on his desk the pounding bass line of Just Imagine takes hold and triggers a light show that only a spaceman could conjure. Lasers shot through a smoke covered stage while psychedelic patterns covered both Kember and the walls. The lights formed shapes, waves and bubbles as the repetitive drone rhythms blended to create a hypnotic effect all at the hands of Sonic Boom.
With the setlist being a straight performance of All Things Being Equal, Kember played through each track without leaving much room for audience participation or applause. The only moment of interaction was when he introduced I Can See Light Bend as a homage to Delia Derbyshire and Doctor Who. As is obvious to any Spacemen 3 fan, Kember has proudly worn his influences on his sleeve and tonight was no different. The beeps and buzzes felt like a kaleidoscopic look into a world of krautrock, taking us on a journey of Harmonia and Kraftwerk with songs such as Just A Little Piece of Me and Tawkin Techno.
The show certainly was not a Spacemen 3 show or a Spectrum show or an Experimental Audio Research show. It was a Sonic Boom show. There was something quite mournful in the way Kember announced he’d only be playing the new album and he could perhaps be criticised for relying on his past work too much. However, this show has brought out maturity in his music. Standing on his own and presenting his new work almost felt like a shedding of his old self.
All words by Rhys Delany. More of his writing can be found on his Authors Archive.