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Mark Stewart and The Maffia - 5 stars / A Certain Ratio - 4 stars

Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh
In the centre of the Voodoo Rooms Ballroom, it sounds like a riot’s going on. The cause is a 50 year old man onstage, whose backing band are pummelling out a relentless mash-up of punk-funk-metal, sculpted into science-fiction dub shapes by a mad professor at the back of the room of similar vintage. After thirty years on the frontline, Mark Stewart, who as vocalist with The Pop Group turned post-punk into a call to arms, is as frighteningly intense as ever. The Maffia, meanwhile, similarly take no prisoners. Having virtually invented Hip Hop as Sugarhill Records house band, guitarist Skip McDonald, bassist Doug Wimbush and drummer Keith LeBlanc have avoided slick session musician syndrome to retain their edge.

This both compliments and confronts Stewart’s cut-up sloganeering, which, beyond the all new Rise Again and greatest hit, As The Veneer Of Capitalism Starts To Fade, free-forms choruses culled from such disparate sources as U2, Vic Godard and 1960s David Bowie. With a muddy mix such an assault could be alienating, but having producer Adrian Sherwood manning the controls adds clarity and mind-whooshing creativity to an already incendiary overload.

As if one post-punk pioneer wasn’t enough, two nights later ex Factory Records underdogs A Certain Ratio play the same venue. Currently a sextet, their set of percussion-heavy funk-noir takes a more straightforward tour through their back catalogue. Led by Jeremy Kerr’s echo-heavy bass and Donald Johnston’s snap-happy drums, at their best on Shack Up and their masterpiece, Flight, ACR produce experimental funkadelic mood music twisted out of the ordinary by analog FX-box textures. Even after all these years, it’s scarily good.

The Herald, June 16th 2008

ends

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