The somewhat dehumanising basement (why do gig venues have the same sticky-carpeted feel the world over?) of the Mandarin club was pleasantly full with punters. Self-deprecating to a fault, Unkle Ho mused: â€œI don’ know you guys, where have you all come from?â€ Well, most of the crowd were in attendance to celebrate the release of Unkle Ho’ second album, Circus Maximus, some of us were in attendance merely as humble scribes.
Proceedings started with Cyclic Defrost reviewer Bec Paton on the decks, spinning the latest bass-heavy weapons to the slowly growing crowd. Later, Inga LiljestrÃ¶m and Cameron Undy on double bass toiled to warm up a mostly apathetic and preoccupied room. A Chinese club, a husky torch-style singer with an Swedish name and plaintive Spanish-style chords reminiscent of Mingus’ Mexican Moods, these two experienced and charismatic musicians are better suited to a later time slot and a more intimate venue.
I was mostly unfamiliar with Unkle Ho’ opus, other than vague remembrances of a passing similarity to the Canadian Bully label’ output, and a resume that included beat making duties for The Herd. I was pleasantly surprised by the laid back, somewhat mournful gypsy undercurrent to the mostly instrumental hip hop that had the tush-shaking flapper B-girls and uni students all getting down in the city on a Friday night.
The track “Circus Maximus’ was the starting point for an exhaustive live rendition of Unkle Ho’ second album. Reminding me of Edan’ “Sing it Shitface’, minus the demented Japanese girl singers, “Circus Maximus’ had the Eastern European feel to boot. From there, the muted horn of Senator Jim Shady and some heavily syncopated beats encouraged the Balkan B-Boys of Strathfield to ramp up the pressure as the track turned into a dancehall slink.
Sonia Tsai from Sparrow Hill loaned out some louche surf-guitar before The Herd’ Jane Tyrrell took to the stage with an easy grace for “Bally Broad’. Some nu-metal guitars meeting inna “rockers uptown sound clash’ with Stravinsky or Wagner followed this. The encore continued in a similar vein, with a “Peter and the Wolf’ style jig complete with added bass weight that I could feel in my chest, and Theremin squeals. An exquisite way to farewell Unkle Ho’ brand of celebratory melancholia.