Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Asian Dub Foundation - THX 1138

Usher Hall, Edinburgh
Four Stars


The two laptops that shine in the gloom from one side of the stage flanked by Asian Dub Foundation's live quartet speak volumes about how far we've come since George Lucas's first and best feature film appeared in 1971. Before Lucas veered off into smash hit space operas and pulp adventure yarns, THX 1138's depiction of a medicated dystopian society utilised hi-tech surveillance techniques and computer data to illustrate a form of social control which seemed like so much post-1960s paranoia. Almost half a century on in ADF's mash-up of sound and vision that began a UK tour this weekend it now looks and sounds like prophecy.

ADF have previous form in grafting live soundtracks onto the likes of La Haine and Battle of Algiers, and you can see the appeal of Lucas and co-writer Walter Murch's parable about a man who attempts to escape from a psyched-out world of sex crimes and virtual messiahs to such a politically charged band.

As a pioneer of sound design, Murch's input to the film was crucial, as was made clear in a filmed interview that preceded the main feature. Here the three time Oscar winner made clear the effect of music concrete on a soundscape that looped a Pierre Henri piece for atmosphere, while John Cage and Terry Riley are also acknowledged influences.

Such subtleties aren't always heard through ADF's beat-led approach, as flute, guitar, bass and drums lend pounding propulsion to an era defining work that goes way beyond Lalo Schifrin's original score. The end result gives urgency to the film's soporific trippiness, refreshing it with a twenty-first century intensity that thunders its way to freedom.

The Herald, October 20th 2015


ends

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