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White Noise: Live Review: Tri-Angle Showcase with Balam Acab, oOoOO and Holy Other

Monday, 13 February 2012

Live Review: Tri-Angle Showcase with Balam Acab, oOoOO and Holy Other

Point Ephemère,  Paris – 10 / 02 / 2012

Balam Acab - Big Boy

Tri-Angle Records has charted a meteoric rise over the last year or so; from their beginnings with a few short EPs tentatively (or dismissively) described as ‘Witch House’ to their superb run of releases from late 2010-11, including efforts from White Noise favourites Balam Acab, Holy Other, How to Dress Well and Clam’s Casino. The label embodies a powerful and unique sound; ghostly and emotive, slow and dream-like, and even if you don’t love every release you’re unlikely to hear anything derivative or unoriginal. When I heard they were coming to Point FMR in Paris you can imagine that I bought my tickets straight away, and I wasn’t disappointed.

I’ve discussed before the difficulties of bringing heavily treated Electronic music to the stage; making a performance feel live while ensuring that it still sounds good and that the songs are at least recognisable. This is a tough task to get perfect, and the most important facet is to avoid the cardinal sin of just standing there pressing play on a laptop. These problems were thrown into sharp relief by the supremely lacklustre opening act (o F F Love, who actually sounds okay on record), who danced around embarrassingly to pre-recorded beats. The backing tracks themselves weren’t too bad, but his performance, in which he covered his face and inexplicably shrugged his jacket repeatedly off and back on his left shoulder, had no sense of immediacy or energy; the only live addition being his voice run through a series of different synthesisers. It was all rather ludicrous and not a particularly promising start to the night, but luckily the three following acts served as a comprehensive lesson on how to bring Electronic beats to life perfectly.

Balam Acab - Oh, Why

One of my very favourite artists, Balam Acab, was up first, and put on a fantastic show. The incredibly young-looking Alec Koone has clearly thought hard about how to bring his sounds to a live show and re-structured many of his songs to suit a gig, the most notable change being the introduction of a female vocalist to sing the ghostly samples in his recorded work. It was a great choice, mostly down to the beauty and strength of her voice, which brought a powerful energy to the opening run of Big Boy and See Birds (Sun). His synth-work lost some of its organic edge in being brought to the stage, sounding more treated and electronic, but Koone made this change work to his advantage, turning the aching melancholy of Await into a glittering dance affair with a surprising degree of success. It was a joy to actually be able to hear the lyrics to his tunes, especially when sung by such a spectacularly talented vocalist, but an element of Wander / Wonder’s darkness remained intact, particularly in the intense basslines of Expect which came next. His set was topped off with a mesmerising new song and a beautiful rendition of Oh, Why; one of a handful of songs where Koone added his own expressive voice to the mix. I’ve always thought the most important thing an artist can do in a live set is allow the spectators to lose themselves completely in the sound and forget everything else, and the only disappointment of Balam Acab’s set was how soon it was over. Thirty minutes just didn’t really feel like enough time given that he had top billing for the night.

oOoOO – Burnout Eyess

While waiting for the next act to come on there was the surprising treat of a genuinely good selection of music in between sets, I picked out How To Dress Well’s Ready For the World and Shlohmo’s remix of Burial’s Shell of Light while we were waiting. Before long oOoOO stepped up to the stage, with a big hood and his own female vocalist in tow. His set was very different from Balam Acab’s bright and wondrous sounds, forcing unusual noises from his machines and evoking emotions closer to disorientation and dread. A creepy black and white video ran behind the two as they worked silently through new material, moving fluidly from one song into the next. All oOoOO’s normal sounds were present; syrup-thick synths drenched in eerie reverb, sharp uneasy strings and ghostly female vocals swimming over the top. After a few new tracks including NoWayBack from his upcoming release, he returned to earlier material with his stunning debut EP highlight Burnout Eyess. For these more vocal-heavy tracks the singer came out from behind her synths and samplers to sing and dance in front of the crowd, but it didn’t really work for me. I thought music with such gravity and darkness as this would be better performed by artists who almost dislocate themselves from their sound, allowing the tunes to speak for themselves. Despite slightly distracting showmanship, the run through Hearts and Mumbai was great; dark bass stabs sounding magnificent on Point FMR’s soundsystem. After a couple of new tracks, including a very intriguing tune with a harsh Hip Hop vocal loop, the singer left the stage to leave oOoOO to close solo with Sedsumting. The final track really brought to the fore the darkened sensuality of his sound, and put a fantastic end to a powerful set.

Holy Other - Touch

The night was closed out by Holy Other, who entered masked and didn’t waste time with introductions. He immediately ran through a continuous and brilliant set of tunes ranging from dark, glitchy productions to brighter, more vocal-driven material. Unfortunately I’m not very familiar with his releases so can’t go into details on which songs he played, other than a surprisingly emotive performance of We Over and a mindblowingly sensuous rendition of Touch to close. In a way Holy Other was the most impressive artist on display, as he seemed to get everything about his performance right. His anonymity was enthralling and seemed very appropriate for his sound; as the last notes of Touch trailed off he turned and left the stage without so much as a nod. The trippy visuals behind him of rippling water and grainy manipulated footage of a hand subtly added to the experience rather than overstating any particular emotion or effect, and his set was absolutely breathtaking from start to finish. At the Tri-Angle showcase there was not one but three excellent gigs held back to back, and although the current European tour is over if you see them coming to a venue near you I could hardly recommend the night more highly.

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At 24 February 2012 at 09:09 , Anonymous Anonymous said...




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