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:: The Star Fighter Pilot :: Napoleon IIIrd ::
01 November 2006 / Night & Day / Manchester

It's the day after In The City in Manchester's live music world, and it feels like the day after the apocalypse. There are more staff than customers in Night & Day and when the screen goes up, The Starfighter Pilot is faced with a largely empty space in front of him but conversely very little space onstage, where he's squeezed into a corner by the other acts' rather enormous collection of equipment . Luckily if he is at all deterred by this it doesn't show, although he does point out he won't be able to dance about as much as usual. After first hitting our radar at ITC05 where he valiantly played a great set despite one of the worst cases of PA buzz I've ever heard, this rather sweet young man has been making quite a name for himself on the local scene with his skewed little electronic pop takes on life in general, self-releasing three EPs from which most of tonight's short set is drawn. With "Dogbite" and "Media Life" he looks at the media from outside and inside, in the sort of rambling critiques Half Man Half Biscuit would be proud of, accompanied by retro synth and sequencer sounds that variously recall bleepy late 80s acid house, Kraftwerk and classic arcade machines. A new song "The Fall" is faster and full of squelchy rave-noises. Overall, he gives the impression of a man who is doing exactly what he wants to do, writing his own rules, and it sounds pretty ace too.

The same could be said of Napoleon IIIrd. It's a preposterous stage name to give yourself, but not inappropriate for the bearded nutcase with mad staring eyes who steps onto the stage next. It seems some of the array of equipment is his, namely the rather impressive head-to-head tape looper at the back. Over the next half hour he entertains in a variety of musical styles from wayward electro nu-folk to maverick lo-fi disco to something that's very nearly pop, using everything from a ukulele (on which his big man-fingers remarkably manage to pick out chords) to something that looks like it came out of the Fisher Price catalogue and makes boingy sounds, to a boring old acoustic guitar. Hey, hang on, no, an interesting acoustic guitar - it's got a strobe light stuffed in it. And if some of his tunes are a bit off-the-wall melody-wise, he's never less than entertaining. At the end of the set I joke to my companion that he could be Starfighter Pilot's dad, and seconds later Starfighter himself walks past and says "He looks like my dad". Now that is disturbing.

Starfighter Base
Napoleon's HQ

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