Simple Things 2017: three highlights

Written for Epigram. See the physical copy here. 


Marie Davison

“This is not the show, just the soundcheck,” Canadian electronic producer Marie Davison warned the expanding crowd during a quick setup. Following a few erratic moments reconstructing flawed tempos, Davison emerged to the stage’s front. She began her first Bristolian performance with a defiantly chattier version of ‘Niave to the Bone,’ swiftly avowing her status as a multitalented live performer – not the conventional DJ shrouded by the illusory bounds of their decks.

Independent of her stage presence, Davison’s performance was well-received; it a showcase of her most familiar, individualistic records which urged a wave of audience movement. Davison plastered her attitude-fuelled spoken-word over repetitive, experimental samples and fluctuating drum machine tempos, while twanged basslines and reverberating synth formed danceable melodies. The set involved crescendos varying in severity, rocking between slabs of unmelodic berlin-techno and voice-led electronica; underpinned by scaling notes descending into distortion and high-energy beats broken with clasping snares.

Marie’s conclusion steered away from volatility. She ended her set affectionately, invading the unified groove of the audience with open arms, and a joyous rendition of ‘Adieux au Dancefloor.’ Yet, although excitedly publicizing the end of a year-tour, her expected exhaustion was imperceptible: her vitality was contagious, and explicit throughout.

Carla dal Forno

Behind the doors of The Lantern, the small, carpeted side-room within Colston Hall, the vibrant buzz of the festival momentarily calmed with the beginning of Carla dal Forno’s performance. The space was dimly lit, with only blushed pulsations of light irregularly accentuating the minimalistic features of dal Forno’s dark, ambient sound.

But this was all that was necessary; the stage held little visual variety. Carla stood motionless, illuminated with her bass strapped to her, while a man stood beside blocked by a soundboard: dal Forno’s music is what held the crowd, and allured them throughout.

The show relied heavily on the layering of sound; recordings of nature formed preliminary substructures for ethereal harmonies and monotone strikes of bass, forging a profoundly rich auditory involvement. Sombre echoes were magnified, forcing murkier, indeterminate cacophonies into sounds of crisper, galvanised momentum. Yet, amidst the enthrallment of the audience, dal Forno remained timid, thanking the spectators sporadically for their applause; the multi-instrumentalist’s interest wholly resided within the delivery of her material, professing a commitment to both tight performance and her work as a form of immersive art.

IDLES  

Only a year ago IDLES played one of the festival’s smallest capacity venues, but their swift size-up to Colston Hall was undoubtedly a necessary one. IDLES played a frenzied show filled with sincere sentiments, straightforward swipes at the right-wing and sweat: “Hello, family” frontman Joe Talbot began.

IDLES paced through debut album Brutalism with intense vigour, forcing their merciless post-punk distortions, pounding percussion and lyrical shrieks down microphones unable to cope, while the audience below became emboldened by band’s infectious erraticism. Between their musical eccentrics, Talbot provided short but pivotal commentaries regarding the elemental topics of their tracks, while humorous japes countered difficult subject matters.

To end, Talbot joined the audience; photographers dived to capture the union while the crowd grappled at his torso, steadying his horizontal testament to landmark live performances. Fans heaved themselves onto the stage after Talbot, enjoying a fleeting boogie – entailing an unusual security intervention. Unlike most, Talbot amicably laughed and gestured with the security staff, instead of ignoring inevitable safety-related grumbles. With this came a reflection of his opening line; IDLES are doubtlessly a beloved part of Bristol’s live community, but they respect this position and the people that make it possible.

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