CQAF: Ulrich Schnauss

Acclaimed knob-twiddler and the audience are let down by a lack of know-how

Once again the Black Box’s policy of encouraging punters to sit around candlelit tables, as if partaking in a Moonie-style mass romantic dinner, ruins a potentially excellent evening’s entertainment. 

German knob-twiddler Ulrich Schnuass worked his way through a very danceable Saturday night set, in front of an audience reduced to foot-tapping.

The evening began well enough. The first band of the night, Ham Sandwich, hail from Kells, Co Meath, and have received rave reviews for their live show, and the clutch of singles they've released to date.

Clearly indebted to Arcade Fire and Interpol, Ham Sandwich employ male and female lead vocalists alongside a saxophonist, adding something a bit different to their multi-layered indie rock sound. 

With Podge McNamee’s buckfast-soaked growl playing well off Niamh Farrell’s swooning vocals, Ham Sandwich show enough flair to suggest they might have a future.

It's a pity that the same can't be said for Airiel. Looking and sounding as if they have spent the best years of the new millennium listening to 90s shoegazers Ride and Slowdive, the three-piece offer nothing but tedium.

With clichéd guitar lines and predictable drum licks, Airiel provide precious little in the way of either innovation or entertainment.

Although often classified as an electronic or ambient artist, Ulrich Schnauss’s recorded work owes as much to My Bloody Valentine and the Cocteau Twins as it does to Richard D James and Tom Jenkinson. 

His most recent release, 2007’s Goodbye, combines cold, hard techno beats with more of a human touch than is usually associated with electronic music.

Live, Schnauss provides clean, accessible beats perfect for a Saturday night of dancing, which seemed to be what the majority of the full house in the Black Box had paid for.

What they got were some low-quality visuals, a man sitting at a mixing desk on the same level as all the tables, and an impromptu dance floor with a capacity of four, operating a one-in-one-out policy.

Rarely are gigs as frustrating as this. It’s great to see interesting artists appearing in Belfast, but until venues like the Black Box are able to put them on properly it seems a tad pointless.

Rarely are gigs as frustrating as this. It’s great to see interesting artists appearing in Belfast but until venues like the Black Box develop the know-how to host them properly it will continue to seem a bit pointless.

Peter Geoghegan