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The Kazimier, Liverpool, 20 Apr

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Liverpool-based group Ex-Easter Island Head are in a celebratory mood, having released two highly acclaimed minimalist records in the past 12 months. The most recent, Large Electric Ensemble, is something of a victory lap, which trades their mallets for an exhilarating, if slightly more on the beaten track, minimalist post-rock composition. Tonight, consisting of 12 electric guitars and percussion, the opening rings of a bell complement the shimmering stacks of tones that are more reminiscent of a cathedral organ than a large power chord. The singularly joyous nature of the piece is evident on the faces of the performers, who smile and nod consistently to each anticipated change in the course of the music. It’s at this point the majesty of the opening chords dies away to a resonant wash of harmonies, which unfortunately loses some of the ensemble’s momentum. Despite the serene respite, it’s a welcome departure when the rhythmic urgent middle section kicks in. Making the harsh snap from nebulous rings to grungy chord progressions,

the ensemble reawakens and notches itself up a gear for the final section, a sublime cacophony that demonstrates the band’s sheer playfulness. The spectacle of watching permanent members Benjamin Duvall and Jon Hering attempting to out-rock each other each side of the stage is a joy in itself. As the final chord rings out to rapturous applause, leader Duvall can barely contain his pride in finally bringing his group’s boldest composition home. Support has been handpicked by Ex-Easter Island Head, with ambient folk trio Trouble With Books providing a balance between familiar song sketches and esoteric noise and feedback. Feeding the celebratory side of the night is live techno act Lunar Modular, whose celestial melodicism and retrofuturist outlook has been sorely missed in Liverpool. However, almost upstaging the headliners is Richard Dawson, who is truly a one-of-a-kind singer. Interrupting himself constantly with absurd quips, Dawson is able to deprecate in a heartwarming way that adds gravitas to his brand of forlorn folk, recounting tales both bizarre and dark – often simultaneously – under a bed of Fahey-esque guitar work. A real treat of a night. [Jon Davies]

Tim Hecker / Julianna Barwick RNCM, Manchester, 1 Apr

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For a festival concerned with all things digital, the organisers of FutureEverything couldn’t have put together a more innovative pair of musicians than Tim Hecker and Julianna Barwick. In the polite theatre of the RNCM, their processed soundscapes offer us two strikingly different interpretations of the future on what turns out to be an evening of contrast – between Barwick’s airy light, and Hecker’s oppressive darkness. Barwick shuffles on stage to the projected backdrop of a red moon, reminiscent of the cover of last year’s album Nepenthe. As she begins to construct her wordless hymns, looping her chants and layering keyboards to harmonise with herself, the anger of the moon begins to melt away, revealing itself as a rotating scope to the universe. With images of stars and nebulae twinkling slowly past our eyes, Barwick’s drones become celestial, a soothing mental massage full

of unfathomable space for imagination, flushing sorrow so far inward that it’s obliterated. It’s catharsis in reverse, especially during songs One Half and The Harbinger – her foot-taps echoing through the crowd’s awe-struck silence. Tim Hecker’s set offers no such human comfort, with him arriving in total darkness in a death robe and gridded mask, his figure a scarcely visible shadow behind his workstation. He moves straight into Virgins’ opener Prism, almost sadistically cranking up the bass thrum until the crowd feel pinned to their seats by the vibration. The technological power is terrifying, exhilarating, and no one applauds because it seems futile. Spending an hour trapped in Hecker’s nightmare realm, amid the warped organ, static and clanking, is like comprehending the workings of an enormous machine that humanity switched on and now can’t turn off. Being able to step back out into the Manchester night afterwards, surrounded by fleshy, imperfect people, becomes a blessing. [Chris Ogden]

Photo: Gary Brown and Manox Media

Mohebbi at Threshold 2014

Threshold Festival

Baltic Triangle, Liverpool, 28-30 Mar

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Threshold, a multi-arts three-day festival now in its fourth year, is an integral date in Liverpool’s cultural calendar. With a vast and varied line-up Koreless of music, performance and visual art, skimming the programme feels like preparation for an exEvian Christ / Koreless / this technique. His compositions potentially lend pedition into an imaginative world deftly curated Lorenzo Senni / Visionist / TCF themselves to wild TR-808 rhythms underneath, by the city’s grassroots cultural scene. RNCM, Manchester, 29 Mar Despite the downpour of rain on Friday but instead he performs clinical exercises in rerrrrr straint. Senni’s monolithic synthesiser sequences night, revellers roam the industrial landscape of Despite little being known about upcoming oscillate from the claustrophobic to the ecstatic, the Baltic Triangle, hopping between the various producer TCF, his lush acousmatic composition with an insistent percussive tone as if imagining a venues offering up musical refuge from the bleak juxtaposed by gravelly digital decay has stunned outdoors. modern, Italo disco-inspired Steve Reich. audiences and got critics talking. Although Highlights include local four-piece Book The night, however, belongs to headliner influences from artists such as Tim Hecker and Thieves, who blizzard through a fierce set at Evian Christ. Accompanied by a visually arrestJóhann Jóhannsson are there, it feels like TCF ing backdrop of haze and dot matrix projections, Blade Factory with raw energy and dirty riffs presents a genuinely refreshing experience of while a 1950s film projection behind them adds Josh Leary’s performance is perfectly conceived listening, refusing to remain static for long, and a retro flavour to the atmosphere, and Natalie for the RNCM without losing the aggressive nawalking the line of ambient musique concrète and ture of his last release, Waterfall. Diverting heav- McCool, who provides a mesmerising perforsynthetic rave/death motifs with the ease of a mance over at The Baltic Social, demonstrating a ily from his usual live set, Christ’s performance producer who’s been crafting for years. derives from several moments found in his finest virtuosity that exceeds her years. After TCF comes Visionist, and while his Over in District, The Destroyers conclude work set to a dark cinematic backdrop, as if the talent is unquestionable it feels that with a lack audience is remembering disintegrated moments the evening in frenzied fashion. A chaotic orchesof a dancefloor the use of 2-step rhythms is flatly from seeing him perform at a club the night betra of jazz-infused gypsy folk, it’s impossible to received. It is a little disappointing, as much fore. Suitably closing the evening is UK bass pro- not be engulfed by their whirlwind of dancing, of his music possesses moments of minimalist oversized spacey balloons and upbeat energy. ducer turned ambient minimalist Koreless, who beauty, and in fact his performance only comes With the sun shining down on Saturday, spirprovides a delightful end of cascading melodies to the fore when moods are allowed to hang in its are high and the warehouses around Jamaica and an effervescent wash of deep audiovisual the air. Italian synthesist Lorenzo Senni excels at tones. [Jon Davies]

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Review

MUSIC

Photo: Gary Brown and Manox Media

Julianna Barwick

Street have been treated to an artistic transformation, with street art and posters reflecting a retro-futurism theme. As evening approaches, a dash from the Nordic Church – where Moxie’s soulful harmonies fit the venue perfectly and play parallel to the impending darkness – takes us over to the Baltic Bakehouse where solo performer Invisible Alliance’s fusion of ambient, electronic and progressive rock with live guitar and sampling enraptures the small, crowded space. Over at 24 Kitchen St, space is the place as A Culture Less Ordinary host an evening of cosmological enchantments. The Part Time Heliocentric Cosmo Drama After School Club, curated by Paddy Steer, are a sight to behold in themselves: the big band, enveloped in gold from head to toe and wearing space-age headgear, offer a glittering performance, pouring out Sun Ra’s eclectic jazz numbers with such passion that the crowd is left speechless. Synth’n’drums duo Galaxians follow, with their infectious blend of house and disco heightening the party atmosphere. Sunday sees a more relaxed day of festival amusements, as Unit 51, the hub of the festival, plays host to the teaming up of Mellowtone and Farm Feast. Chilled out, summery vibes fill the air, and Beaten Tracks DJs provide the ideal soundtrack to an urban utopia. [Natasha Linford]

THE SKINNY

Photo: David Howarth

Ex-Easter Island Head

Photo: Gaz Jones

Ex-Easter Island Head

The Skinny Northwest May 2014  
The Skinny Northwest May 2014  

The Skinny Northwest is Liverpool and Manchester's leading entertainment and listings magazine

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