In his 1933 essay, “The Notion of Expenditure,” philosopher Georges Bataille argued that “the spectacle” represents an activity which “has no end beyond itself.” A spectacle is pure expenditure, excess in its most glorious form. Bataille does not see such a characterization as pejorative; indeed, he finds a certain necessity in unfettered indulgence. Every so often, society needs a release, a spectacle, to relieve the pressures exerted by our day-to-day, productive behaviors. One would be hard-pressed to find a more ardent endorsement of a good party or two, and one would be similarly hard-pressed to find a more, in the etymological sense of the word, spectacular party than a Simian Mobile Disco show.
See, while James Ford and James Shaw, known collectively as Simian Mobile Disco, do in fact play music at their concerts, they focus just as much attention and energy on providing audiences with unparalleled visual experiences. The luminary and sonic components of an SMD show stand on equal footing. Music takes no precedence over lights, lights take no precedence over music, and, as illustrated below, the marriage of the two makes for what can only be described as a full-fledged spectacle.
If you are reading this after skipping the video, please, stop. Don’t be lazy, simply direct your gaze several inches upward, click on the triangle in the middle of the window, and do your due diligence (if you are pressed for time, at least check out 1:29-1:45). Those of you who watched the video the first time through, take this opportunity to collect your jaws from the floor. There is something almost transcendent about the hybrid sensory experience that Simian Mobile disco delivers. Even via the impersonal medium that is YouTube, SMD is able to fabricate an experience of chromesthesia for their audience. The music and lights are so perfectly coordinated, so intertwined in their intricate dance of synthesis, that for the witness, the aural and ocular begin to bleed together.
If by some miracle the prospect of Simian Mobile Disco’s one-of-a-kind spectacle doesn’t entice you, just remember that the band has been known to lay down some pretty wicked beats. While the lights and lasers may not do it for you, the music certainly will (on that note, feel free to check out the video below for a quick explanation of how the band pulls off a live performance). Come see for yourself this Monday, December 3rd, at Neumos.