Friday, 13 November 2015

Warm Digits with Filmbee / co¥ᄀpt / Pentecostal Party - Live at Northern Stage, Newcastle [13th November 2015]

[2015.11.13] Tom Hollingworth, for NE:MM Magazine.

Following on from supporting Razmataz Lorry Excitement’s Without album launch, Claire Dupree, in the name of NARC Magazine, once again utilised the space at Northern Stage, to give a band close to her heart an unrestricted stage to play with.
After a break from performing over the summer, Warm Digits (Steve Jefferis and Andrew Hodson) recently popped down the road to play at Leeds’ Recon Festival in October. Now, the Distraction Records duo return to Newcastle to give their home fans something new. As well as a set written to include recently recorded tunes, they are also relinquishing their light-show element of the show, to give way to collaborate with the film co-operative FilmBee, who will shape the display of visuals for this upcoming evening.
In terms of the programme, Jefferis explained that Warm Digits were keen to have other acts on the bill that were doing interesting things with electronic music currently. From Pentecostal Party and co¥ᄀpt’s recent output, their inclusion on the bill certainly seems to marry this desire.

A healthy crowd circulate downstairs in the Stage 3 venue at Northern Stage, shortly after the doors are opened, and lively chatter and the clinking of glasses is lacquering the air. Walking into the space, you discover gorgeous old Elf projectors sitting a-top of wooden platforms, whilst busy members of FilmBee’s team sweep clothes-hangers of film strips into position, ready for their collaboration with the headline act: the promise of Warm Digits’ ever-evolving spectacle supported immediately for those attending, and anticipation blossoms into excitement.

Fading up the outline kicks of what will develop into Night & Day, Dawn Bothwell as Pentecostal Party subtly develops the outline of the beat on her table of toys as the house lights fall. Behind her, a projection screen fills the back wall behind the stage, and a video loops the slithering of an intimidatingly large blue eel underwater. Pentecostal Party uses rigidity in the rhythms of her songs which carve out, what feels like, the blue-prints of physical architecture with which she sits the more vulnerable centre of her music inside: her vocal chants and reimagining stanzas.

Pentecostal Party’s previous show for the Halloween Hauskonzert put a spell on the upstairs room at The Old Police House in Gateshead recently, with a packed room of people engaged with its heartbeat and cathartic yearning melodies. Tonight, due to a contrasting space and performance time, similar material was digested more reflectively from most of the crowd, with some attendees ignorantly continuing to prioritise the sound of their own voice over someone who actually had something to offer.

Highlights of the set included Lets Storm Heaven, with Bothwell fully immersed, one hand reaching up to the ceiling as she refrained the call-to-arms. At the close, percussion was removed as synthesised chords looped, and improvised melodies were played with, fading this unbroken streaming seance into silence.

Riding high off the back of performing at Manchester’s Algorave event at Texture last night, the live-coding spirit of Sean Cotterill, co¥ᄀpt (pronounced co-opt,) was still restless and keen to dance. Armed at his laptop, (Sunn O))) T-shirt holding his hand,) Cotterill set about creating his set, using phrases of computer code to grow and manipulate sounds and images. The language of his instructions were projected in real-time, whilst other shapes and images were mixed into the canvas, also at his command.

His improvisation started with swelling chords, with percussion elements slowly entering the fray. Unusual words like ‘Buf’ and ‘pwhite’ built steadily in different colours of the rainbow behind him and slowly but surely the audience partially ingested the links between the visual language Cotterill was speaking and the sounds they were hearing. This first section enjoyed a half-time feel with lots of hemi-demi-semi-definition made up of small clicks and fuzzes. Certain visual motifs were established on the backdrop too, including mosaics of black triangles streaming, and cuboid lines intersecting. After a while of what was a steadily unfolding landscape, a more vigorous style was programmed kicking out the previous scene and from here on in Cotterill moved quickly through various progressive movements. Though the sounds were very different to traditional set-ups, the flow was in the spirit of progressive rock or fusion jazz improvisations. Alongside this playful sonic confidence, the visuals became more dynamic, with the original triangle motifs collapsing together and expanding, as if they were a beating heart.

As the co¥ᄀpt set came to its dramatic finish with ripped up bassy sounds, Cotterill shook his two fists at chest level in triumph; a feeling very much understood by those watching, themselves noticeably thrilled.

The crowd moved forward, embracing the gap of space in front of stage as the main feature took position. Lights circulated around the skin of Hodson’s bass-drum, projected out from the kick. With a quick nod to one another, Warm Digits were off! They opened boldly with Wireless World and then the optimism of Working For A Better Future, with its joyful skipping beat, and Jefferis’ sweet melody lines.

Though shoulders and two-steps were grooving from the beginning of the set, it was by the time the funk bass of one of their more recent offerings, End Times, came around a few tracks into the set, the waves of movement in the room were banishing all thoughts of an outside world; their groove was in the marrow of every bone, and their imagination leading everyone.

Throughout, the duo linked songs, maintaining the momentum, which they utilise as an important foundation upon which to build their musical textures. This sense of travel has also become one of the great attractions of their sonic identity, taken to a further, more literal interpretation, on their material for the Half Memory project. Sometimes they melted tracks together with a seamless blending of motifs, and at other times they enjoyed looping and degrading the last breaths of the previous tune before excitedly entering a new track, with a new style, and a new athletic movement. This sonic relentlessness is paralleled by Hudson’s performance throughout, which speaks to endurance. With uplighting around his drum-kit, the drama in his facial expressions and flying limbs were given added distinction.

Towards the end of the set, the hyper scaling of Weapons Destruction started, and joyous fans made the floor bounce at the realisation; some with arms raised in the air, others hooking embraces around friends.

FilmBee intertwined their sumptuous visuals around Warm Digits’ music across this special occasion, creating symbolic and textured film-loops on two additionally erected screens. Some of the shapes resembled Cy Twombly circles, whilst others included broader paint marks. Not only did the progressing visuals interact with the music, but both the left and right screens developed relative to one another as well, all skilfully edited live at the two stations at the back of the room.

It’s not often two separate encores are genuinely coerced from a band, but tonight everyone was in WD’s plane as the wheels left the ground and nobody felt like coming down so the architects of flight kindly kept on going a little longer, finishing with two older classics, including One Trash Groove. Though most of FilmBee’s accompanying work had been more abstract for the evening, in this final coda, humour and tenderness were summoned, with a section of film depicting a very sweet little guinea pig.

With its combination of acts, the evening felt like a celebration of shape, space and angles explored through various styles of music and visuals, performed by artists who possess the skills to go deep within these topics. The thoughtful curation elevated each glorious part to a greater sum.

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