In a dark and musty Pickle Factory in Bethnal Green the weird underbelly of the electronic scene assembled to witness a performance from Kai Whiston. Fresh from the acclaim of his debut album Bitch, Whiston toes a delicate balance between his varied influences. His music is a forceful blend of the sheer impact of hardcore techno and post punk breakdowns, resulting in a varied spectatorship with as many special edition Nikes as Doctor Martens. Alternatives and aloof creatives finding common ground in the sonic qualities of Whiston. Readying themselves for cataclysmic drops, monstrous sub bass and textured instrumentation, the deconstructed house faithful waited with baited breath as the 1st act, Spinee served some gloopy nostalgia. At the time this felt quite “hard” for a supposed “opening act” with her bouncy, happy-hardcore, techno-inspired cuts but as events transpired, it turns out compared to the impactful Whiston, this was turning the dial towards the lower end of the scale.
Donning what looked like a pair of an elderly gentlewoman’s tidy whities atop his face, Whiston stood in the centre of the crowd beckoning in the stragglers. Who’s tar stained lungs no longer had the oxygen left to withstand the culmination of Spinee’s go-hard-or-go-home set. “Who likes live music”? (Spoken as a challenge rather than a question), suddenly the audience erupts in a violence evocative of a Cannibal Corpse mosh pits, arms were swung, noses were bloodied, senses overwhelmed.
Hurling offensively large drops, apocalyptic subs and a screaming, affected vocal, while high velocity, intermittent strobe lighting further confused the already disorientated fans; Whiston announced his intention for his performance. Nothing subtle, no duality of meaning, no strong conceptual arc, just an impressive, colossal musical mass, designed to leave a lasting impression; a bespoke catalyst to overwhelm and overstimulate. An impression reinforced by the weighty, anthemic, “Brain Fritta” and by other stand out tracks from Whiston’s debut album. Notably “All Is Fair in Love and Kai Whiston” and “For F**k Sake” ensured the audience engagement was total and unequivocal.
This being said if you do like the comfort of listening to impactful electronic music through a pair of medium to high range speakers/headphones, without the stress of an accidental injury caused by an overzealous Kai Whiston fan, then retreat into your safe space. If you ear likes the sensation of the sonic equivalent of a 12 round heavyweight bout or (like me) you don’t find tinnitus to much of a sleep deterrent, then Kai Whiston is for you and should be enjoyed in all its restless, maniacal, unhinged glory.
Words: Matthew O’Hare