808state live at Hull University, 31 January 1997

Report from NME, 22 February 1997:

808 State
Hull University

Text: Emma Hogan

THE SET-UP looks innocent enough. To one side, a ginger hobgoblin hunched over a sampler, to the other, a dodgy bowl haircut crouched behind a set of bongo drums. But this is deceptive because suddenly a ball of savage, menacing sound swings out across the audience, then fragments and splinters downwards. Now it's not like being in the Uni hall at all, but in the Devil's own furnace... only the Devil's just decided to play some of the smoothest jazz this side of Ipanema. Welcome to the State of 808.

They're pioneers, of course. 808 State revolutionised an entire genre of music in the late-'80s, inspiring Underworld, Orbital and The Chemical Brothers in the process. Their latest single, 'Lopez', benefits from the Manics' James Dean Bradfield's soaring vocals, and reminds the world of the often ignored influence of their visionary electronic futurism. But after years away, the question is: where do they fit in now and is anyone still listening?
Well, the answer is obviously still an emphatic 'yes'. The unbearably invigorating 'Spanish Marching' transforms the crowd instantly from students into a lunatic 1,500-headed beast of flailing limbs and hair - and this is only the surface effect of the ecstatic, cacophonic riot that is 808 State live. Adrenaline saturates the air, lasers slash the smoke, the energy flows through the ceiling and throbs in the walls, and the entire immediate world visibly quakes and mutates.

Seamlessly fusing earthshakingly heavy guitar with deeply funked-up basslines that could destroy whole cities, the State administer their irresistible injection of narcotic mercury, leaving not a soul untouched or a mind unblown.

It's debatable how much of what they play is actually recognised, but with the arrival of their airy classic, 'Pacific State', proceedings reach some kind of exhilarating, triumphant head. At which point, the three heads of State survey the scene and leave the mayhem. Unrecognised, of course, but unsurpassed, too.