EMF @ Rescue Rooms, Nottingham, UK, January 25, 2024 | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Tuesday, February 27th, 2024  


EMF, The Dirt, Funke and the Two Tone Baby

EMF @ Rescue Rooms, Nottingham, UK, January 25, 2024,

Jan 28, 2024 Web Exclusive
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It’s difficult not to be politically motivated having grown up throughout the Conservative government dominated years of the 1980s and early 1990s, and for a band like EMF it kind of forged their identity. Albeit indirectly. Having emerged from the Forest of Dean’s underground rave scene at the tail end of the eighties just as the rock and dance cultures were forming an alliance, EMF became spokespeople for their generation. With the Criminal Justice Bill on its first steps towards creating legislation that would outlaw rave gatherings and free parties on the underground festival circuit, those affected would turn their ire towards the Tory ministers hellbent on restricting their freedom. So, it shouldn’t come as any surprise to see EMF’s stage set up (particularly Derry Brownson’s keyboard) emblazoned with anti-Tory stickers and slogans. Particularly as the current incumbents of Conservative government are actually worse than the ones thirty years ago, if that were at all possible.


Before the headliners take to the stage, both support acts set the scene impeccably. Opener Funke and the Two Tone Baby aka Kent-based multi-instrumentalist Dan Turnbull is a one-man powerhouse whose musical palette ranges from guitar and keyboard samples to harmonica, drums and beatboxing all played by the man himself through a variation of loops and effects pedals. His repertoire is a sight (and sound) to behold that casts all aspersions for the necessity of a full band to replicate what Turnbull can achieve. Playing a set largely consisting of songs from his most recent, fourth long player Reacclimate, Funke and the Two Tone Baby is an exceptional force of nature and one that will almost certainly have won himself a bunch of new admirers just in time for his headline tour in April.

Next up are The Dirt, a duo conceived in Manchester and Tokyo but now based in the Pennines. Their twisted take on psych rock with polemic and political commentaries makes them one of the most unique but ultimately vital acts on the circuit right now, as last year’s excellent Agitator LP highlighted. Centred around vocalist/speaker Jack Horner who also takes care of beats and samples, and extraordinary guitarist Sachiko Wakizaka whose effects-laden sonic annihilation takes her partner’s dystopian poetry to the next level. “Power Junkie” and “Rant Two” leave no stones unturned as to which side of the political fence The Dirt are aligned with. The latter in particular sounding like a mash-up between Sleaford Mods and Spacemen 3. While closing number “Voting Booth” acts as a song in three parts, each one flashed out by Wakizaka’s guitar parts while Horner brings the prose then the noise (think Public Service Broadcasting duetting with Whitehouse) for its deafening crescendo. In between, new songs are aired. Each one punctuated by Horner’s thought provoking, spoken word commentary. Bigger things surely await over the coming months.

The Dirt
The Dirt

With one of the biggest selling debut albums of the nineties to their name and a host of hit singles to boot, EMF need no introduction. Playing to a sold-out Rescue Rooms in a city that’s always been incredibly receptive to their wares from the first time they played Nottingham over thirty years ago, there’s still a youthful vigour and energy about them even though the three remaining founder members - James Atkin (vocals), Ian Dench (guitar) and Derry Brownson (keyboards) - are into their fifties now. Of course, it would be easy for EMF to just focus on the hits so its to the band’s credit that this tour is to promote and commemorate their new album (and second in two years) The Beauty and the Chaos, which actually comes out tomorrow (Friday 26th). The follow-up to 2022’s Go Go Sapiens, The Beauty and the Chaos further demonstrates EMF’s preferred take on the heavier side of beats-laden rock if the three songs played this evening are anything to go by. Both “Read The Room” and “The Day The Music Died” follow a similar path to much of 1992’s Stigma, the band’s second album which focused less on pop sensibilities and more on sonics.

Which is not to say the two can’t work hand in hand, because when they do EMF are simply untouchable. Opener “Children” with its instantly recognisable intro/refrain was a top 20 chart hit back in 1991 and its lost none of that urgency today. Segueing into “Long Summer Days” as it does on the album its taken from Schubert Dip, they make an incisive and galvanising couplet that turns the room into a warehouse rave venue for the ninety minutes that follows. The third of those new songs, “Hello People”, acts as a mid-set conduit between the past and the present. Its placement between the diminutive cyber thrash of “They’re Here” and breakthrough single “Unbelievable” is both telling and effective.


Time constraints means a couple of songs are omitted from the setlist (Second single “I Believe” and “Stardust” off the new record being the unfortunate ones) but what we do get are two interesting covers in the shape of “I’m A Believer” - previously a hit for EMF and comedian Vic Reeves in 1995. Followed by a frenetic run through Depeche Mode’s “Just Can’t Get Enough”, which holds a special place in a lot of Nottingham folks hearts due to its connections to one of the city’s football teams.

Finishing on the obligatory “E.M.F.”, the band’s self-aggrandising anthem that’s regularly closed all of their sets right the way through from the band’s most humble beginnings, it’s clear EMF are as relevant today as they were three decades ago. Beautiful chaos indeed.

The Dirt
The Dirt


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