Gig review: Asian Dub Foundation

The Usher Hall. Picture: Ian Rutherford
The Usher Hall. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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While it’s a welcome sight to see genre-straddling Hackney indie-dub collective Asian Dub Foundation take to a stage once more, the real star here was George Lucas’ 1971 directorial debut THX 1138, a film which has paled into relative obscurity given his later successes with the Star Wars franchise. This first touring night of ADF’s live-score reinterpretation of the film sees it reintroduced by the group as an essential mirror of our times.

ASIAN DUB FOUNDATION: THX 1138

Usher Hall, Edinburgh

Star rating: 4

Filmed in tones of austere white and sinister black, Lucas and co-writer Walter Murch’s film is a short, sharp shock that’s entirely in charge of its own aesthetic. In the future, humans are coerced by a combination of intensive, emotion-deadening drug therapies and brutal android police officers into a life of repetitive servitude.

Sex is a crime, and the population is watched at all times. When his designated mate secretly stops his dose, Robert Duvall’s THX 1138 is driven to thoughts of rebellion and escape.

Played by a quartet, ADF introduce light flute for the more tender moments, a dense bed of effects-laden guitar and synthesiser as the backdrop to this eerily efficient world, and crunching, urgent analogue rhythms over the thrillingly climactic car chase.

There are hints of clashing dub here and post-punk noise there, a resonant reinvention of this film as an engagingly rebellious experiment, while the humour, pathos and skilful world-building of the original piece are allowed to breathe. Yet you don’t notice the band, so much as the chilling resonances of a world in which the mantra is “Work hard, increase production, prevent accidents and be happy”.

DAVID POLLoCK