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LIVEMUSIC INTERVIEW: I.R.O.K. AND AZEALIA BANKS AT AMSTERDAM'S PARADISO, 2011

 

 
 
Last weekend Amsterdam's Paradiso was taken over by London Calling, a mini festival jam packed with bands, geographically leaning towards association with the English capital. Will and the People, Friends, Jamie N Commons, The History of Apple Pie and many more made their way to Holland, but the highlights were undoubtably I.R.O.K. and Azealia Banks
 
The latter appeared at 1am, shortly before I.R.O.K.'s set at 2am - both on the upper stage. Azealia Banks hails from Harlem, New York. Here a formal training in the classical performing arts lent to her versatility as a songstress and emcee. A dirty mouth and an innovative flow have garnered industry interest and guest appearances with acts such as Major Lazer. Now she's ready to hit the solo path hard. The preparation for her debut album is well under way, having dropped gems like '212' - below. Beyond witticism and the manipulation of idiomatic expression, rapping is about vox as an instrument. Few master this better than Banks, as she moves from oaky Harlem drawl to gorbellied R&B. Her excessive use of expletives leaves no linguistic fig leaf unturned. 'Bowdlerising' is not within the woman's vocabulary and frankly it only adds to her charm - Banks' girlish innocence is an intoxicating combination when placed alongside such rotten filth. 'Cunt' is bandied about with every other sentence and finds an excited, ebullient crowd. Azealia Banks is hot property and will more than likely find herself on the bill of every self-respecting festival next year.
 
I.R.O.K. were also spot on the money, the London-based troupe raved in mad rapture beneath the luminous glow of Amsterdam's iconic venue. The 'dimension' the band creates, as discussed by lead-man Mike Title below, is a fine example of what is commonly referred to as 'magic'. We're not talking about Paul Daniels chopping Debbie McGee in two - we're talking about Prospero, Edward Kelly and Agrippa. The British artist Grayson Perry, in a new exhibition at the British Museum, boasts a section of 20 or so objects dedicated to his role as magician. Perry embodies objects with sacred powers, he transforms them into mystical entities - as do I.R.O.K. through the medium of music.
 
"Art is literally magic" according to comic book savant Alan Moore. A book of spells, a grimoire, literally means 'book of grammar' - words being integral to creative outputs. Occult shares its etymology with 'cult' and 'culture'. In early history magic was referred to as 'the art' or the 'black art'. Black art is commonly misunderstood as sinister and evil, but then it simply referred to the fertile black soil lining the banks of the Nile. Ancient Egypt has long been known as a spiritual menhir. Take The Exodus for example. When Moses goes to the Pharaoh to demonstrate his relationship with God, he first tosses down his staff and turns it into a serpent. The Pharaoh's magicians are not shocked by this transmogrification and swiftly follow suit. Can we conceive the human mind, through magic, has the ability to access ulterior dimensions? Something demonstrated in Exodus as a more simple task, before the Enlightenment took hold with iron grip. Pathfinder of this movement Isaac Newton was not only a pioneer of physics, he was an alchemist. The idea of Newton as rationalist has been popularised but he was in fact the last of the magicians, he spent most of life immersed in alchemy and attempting to decode the Bible in search of esoteric knowledge.
 
Well I.R.O.K. are modern alchemists, new magicians helping shift our malleable consciousness through art. Title writhes in shamanistic fulminations and their afro-futurist punk fizzes with the evening's effervescence. A band so singular in their vision hasn't performed since Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars - but Bowie acted like a bit of a self-aggrandising penis. Recent scientific discoveries maybe heralding the undoing of rationalism.
 
The £11 billion LHC experiment in Geneva has turned up some curious results. Let us assume these results from CERN are authentic and Einstein's Theory Of Special Relativity has been disproved. Subatomic particles, neutrinos, have been measured on multiple occasions to have traveled faster than the speed of light. One explanation is they take short cuts through other dimensions. Perhaps human consciousness has the ability to access these. Perhaps hallucinations are simply other dimensions staring back at us with equal curiosity - perhaps The Intergalactic Republic of Kongo are our modern ships transporting the mind through portals of space. Livemusic certainly tripped our tits off and left our inhibitions in London. Below Mike Title gives profound insight into the mind of a modern alchemist. Replaced are mercurial liquids and pestles and mortars, instead this band stir the cauldron of modern culture and audio colours, then spit down the throat of the Magi's serpents. Guttural, immediate and a live act to miss at your peril.
 
Alex Templeton-Ward.
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