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Indian E-music – The right mix of Indian Vibes… » 2019 » April » 21

UNKLE review – James Lavelle’s rock-star neediness stifles

Delivered... Joe Muggs | Scene | Sun 21 Apr 2019 2:03 pm

Royal Festival Hall, London
The Mo’Wax founder remains a peerless talent-hunter, but his desire to be in the spotlight gets in the way of his own show

In the 2016 documentary movie The Man From Mo’Wax, the story of James Lavelle is told as tragedy with eventual redemption. From his teens, he was a DJ’s DJ and founded one of the greatest labels of the 1990s. Possessed of golden ears and boundless hustle, he connected the UK underground with everyone from the Beastie Boys to Detroit techno’s prime movers, and Mo’Wax itself became a living artwork. But it wasn’t enough: Lavelle wanted to be a rock star. Chasing ever more intense peak experiences and proximity to big-name collaborators, his UNKLE project became all-consuming, almost destroying him.

In the film, sobriety and renewed focus presented a happy ending: stardom established, creativity rebooted, sprawling three-part concept albums ahoy (the ongoing The Road trilogy has run to 37 tracks since). And Lavelle clearly still has an eye for talent. Tonight’s young support act Skinny Palembe is fantastic, for starters – his band like the xx gone maximalist, with rolling Afrobeat rhythms, Krautrock and hints of dancehall embellishing the nervy indie – and Lavelle’s own band is razor-sharp, too. That musicianship is weirdly deployed, though. The first half of the show features him behind CD decks with cellist Philip Sheppard, drummer Alex Thomas and Steven Weston on about 19 different instruments, all dressed in black, providing backing for existing UNKLE vocal tracks, with films projected behind.

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