Abstract Genius – Sticky Fungus, Staines 13 May


“Thankyou for not killing me”

Abstract Genius is a funk hip-hop hardcore ska band from Guildford. They don’t make it easy on themselves (Its A Long Way To The Top -If You Wanna Rock ‘N Roll) and mixing ska with hardcore was never gonna be easy … if you want hardcore then you won’t like the ska elements, and if you like ska you won’t like the hardcore elements…

Add to this the fact these lily-white kids are from the stockbroker belt of leafy Surrey and don’t possess enough angst in them to hurt a fly (let alone participate in a drive-by) and you cannot help but think that they will never be ‘Hurt So Bad’ to be able to authentically play ska-punk… there is a dawning  realisation that AG have  made a fair  few rods for their own corporate behind.

But the results are quite surprising … Abstract Genius took to the Sticky Fungus stage on a Wednesday night with a small crowd  (shall we say 40+) of devotees watching on – and stormed the place with their hip-hop vocals, high singing strings, mento semi-acoustic thrumming chords,  thumping bass play and squelchy sparkling sax.

Luke, on tenor and alto sax added tension and interest (not least by breaking a glass of Rosé – much to the overwhelming annoyance and personal displeasure of the SF soundman) and played the crowd with a practiced ease – deploying rapid-fire flowing patterns and progressively faster rap formations.

Combine this with Nick’s off beat chops, complete with the kind of singing lead breaks that threaten to singe the air and burn up the available oxygen (‘cos they are being played so high and electrically charged) and you have got one helluva hip-hop ska outfit. Mike’s offbeat lyrical percussion and Ben’s hard work and solid funkster bass-play all added up to a not to-be-missed adventure into sound and rhythm.

The breath control and vocal presence of the raps came across well, but in my opinion, some of the most delicate quality of Nick’s guitarwork was drowned out by crushing low bass distortion. When I was comparing what I heard live last night to the AG recordings (on their singularly good new album) I realised what I was missing. I also noticed that Mike’s backing vocals were almost incomprehensible- in fact Mike was so distant from the main band (being placed about 5 meters to the back of the stage) that he seemed to be almost a session player…. I recommend he gets moved forward in future gigs to get to participate more.

As well as the complete ‘Stand your Ground’ album (played over two halves) the band also proudly showed off their new song  ‘The Fine Line’ which demonstrated all that is good about this group – the rhyme schemes, gritty patterstyle blocks of percussion, loopy and sprightly guitar licks and a low thumping bass sound. And with a hard-core edge too!. Jolly good work.

With the alternating and entwining tempos, punk style choruses (plus angry shouts) a clean sax and a lead guitar sound that leans towards such ska punksters as Reel Big Fish etc. I really enjoyed this gig.  It was more skafull than the Bosstones and more slap-funky than early Incubus. Get the idea?  You should do… catch ‘em live soon or nag them for a copy of their album.

© Neil_Mach
May 2009



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