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White Noise: Baths Live at Cargo Review - 3 May 2011

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Baths Live at Cargo Review - 3 May 2011

An artist who performs without any live instruments faces some obvious problems. In order for people to pay to see them in person, there has to be an immediacy and an energy to their performance. What is also required is a certain level of deviation from their recorded material during the set; the audience doesn't want to get the impression that they're watching an artist just pressing play on their laptop and perhaps occasionally moving the fader switch.

As soon as Baths started up his first track it became clear that this wouldn't be a problem. He opened with Apologetic Shoulderblades, the first track from his debut LP, Cerulean. And for the first thirty seconds or so the only instrument he used was his own voice. The melodic, straining vocals of his music can often play second fiddle to his hard, stuttering beats or any of the great effects and samples he implements on record, but throughout the performance his vocals really shone.

On a giant soundsystem and with a mid-sized but very energetic crowd his beats came hard and fast, throbbing through the smallish venue until a good half of the audience were dancing. (Some, however, only began to get their groove on after he took a time out to tell everyone “C'mon, I wanna see you dancing! Just get a little gay!”). He played through the majority of his only album, with crowd favourites being the expected best cuts Maximalist, Aminals (he asked us to get our claws out) and Hall.

Taking a cue from his excellent warm-up, Star Slinger, Baths added a lot of dancey layers and beats to his tracks, making the gig feel sometimes a little like an excellently DJ-ed club night. He also incorporated a fair amount of glitchy stutters and spine-tingling drops just to make sure everyone was moving by about halfway through the set.

A pleasant surprise was that a few of the tracks on the album that shone less brightly benefited enormously from this treatment, You're My Excuse to Travel being a real crowd pleaser as he bounced across the stage with infectious enthusiasm. In a recent interview he commented that although he was just one man, he liked to think he made the sound of a whole band, and he had more than enough presence to fill the stage.

He also played quite a lot of new material that was extremely different to his released tracks, with a much darker techno sound (A repeated line I managed to make out was “I won't let you bury your body in my graveyard”) that sounded like a promising direction for such a young talent to take. When he stepped off the stage at the end to chat to those left at the bar I asked him when he was planning a new release (after he gave me an enthusiastic, sweaty hug) and he said he was hoping to have something out by summer.

It was an energetic and thrilling gig that didn't once get boring, in fact there was an audible sound of disappointment from the crowd when he stopped- he could've gone on twice as long, and everyone would still be dancing.

A special mention should go out to Star Slinger, who was supporting but played for almost as long. His glitch-fueled beats and samples ranging from hip hop to 50s movies in true J Dilla style were completely enthralling, definitely one to watch out for and a superb performer.


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