By Jade Finkle

Live Review: Pitch Black, Auckland, November 11, 2022

by Jade Finkle

Live Review: Pitch Black, Auckland, November 11, 2022

The Mothership is a new venue on Shortland Street in central Auckland, which opened its doors just four months ago. On Friday November 11, Aotearoa’s electronic legends Pitch Black pushed it to its capacity with a completely sold-out show, part of the ‘Exodus Tour’ — their first NZ tour post-Covid.

For those unfamiliar, Pitch Black played a major role in the underground electronic scene of the late ’90s – early ’00s, bringing their psychedelic ambient/dub sounds to events like the renowned The Gathering and releasing a string of highly-regarded albums. To this day, they keep up the momentum, producing quality projects and collaborating with notable artists around the world. The audience in Auckland (and the various other locations on their eight-date tour) were dying to hear how the duo’s live sound had fared after a two-year break from performing.

Opening up the evening was a set by Nito, who set the scene with some of the most chilled-out dubstep-flavoured dub music known to man; all huge, smooth bass lines and slow, syncopated drumbeats. By the time the second act took to the stage, the room had started to fill, and people were heading to the dancefloor. Dylan C and Ed Zuccollo (aka Zuke) perfectly matched the changing mood, as they slowly shifted towards heavier, groovier territories, bringing in more of that throbbing dubstep bass and even some frenetic drum ’n’ bass beats.

The main act began at 11:30pm with a simple, “Kia ora, kia ora” from Paddy Free. Then it was straight into the music. Most of the tracks played were pulled from their extensive back-catalogue. While some, such as 2016’s Pixel Dust, stayed faithful to the album version, others (especially the opener, 1998’s The Gatherer) were twisted almost beyond recognition. Michael Hodgson’s distinctive, hypnotising delays and effects were turned up higher than ever, and the eager crowd was whirled into a mind-bending musical soundscape.

The breadth of Pitch Black’s style was demonstrated by the track choices. On one end of the spectrum, we had four-to-the-floor club bangers like Big Trouble Upstairs and Electric Earth, but just as the intensity reached its peak, the sound would switch to a more laid-back dub piece like Transient Transmissions, or the group’s latest single Exodus (a Bob Marley cover), which went down a treat with the exultant audience.

As always, the show was accompanied by the band’s signature video backdrop, a tailor-made visualiser that interacts with the music in real-time. With such a visual assault, it was difficult to take in the details of the videos, but one interesting moment stood out during The Gatherer. It began with the artwork from their debut album ‘Futureproof’, but as the song was gradually warped into weirder realms, the visuals followed suit, distorting and changing throughout the track’s runtime.

After Pitch Black ended their 100-minute set appropriately with The End (from their new remix album ‘Mixes + Mavericks’), AlleyKat closed out the evening with an upbeat house set.

The Mothership proved a perfect location for the show. Sound quality was magnificent, with the essential bass tones booming satisfyingly, crisp treble cutting through the room without being too piercing and, unlike lesser dance venues, a healthy amount of mid-range ensuring the clarity of the songs. The small, intimate space enhanced both the sound and the overall mood. The audience could press right up against the stage, view the DJ work from a raised platform to the side, take a breather on the comfortable sofas or move to the back of the room for a drink or a merch purchase.

After 25 years of recording and performing music, Pitch Black shows no signs of slowing down, even after the setback of a worldwide pandemic. If anything, they might be stronger than ever, displaying more creative improvisation and optimistic energy than ever before. This show confirms that if you’re ever going to attend an electronic gig in NZ, best make it a Pitch Black concert.