tue 11/08/2020

Outer Limits, Studio 9294 review - quickfire sets and snowman dancing | reviews, news & interviews

Outer Limits, Studio 9294 review - quickfire sets and snowman dancing

Outer Limits, Studio 9294 review - quickfire sets and snowman dancing

A festive celebration of Fire Record's artists

Pictish Trail, aka Johnny LynchRachel Bevis

Whatever your office Christmas party was like, I can (almost) guarantee that it wasn’t as much fun as this Fire Records event. Running from five to midnight in Studio 9294, with lashing rain cutting across the River Lea just behind the venue, it was like being invited to a party by someone you don’t know very well but know that you’re going to like very much.

There were seven bands to see, with the possibility to slip in and out (which I did). Each band played a mini-set, with the length increasing as the evening wore on. This had its negatives and positives – the vignette-like brevity gave a neat taste of each band, which condensed their sounds and gave no chance to wander off and not listen to a few songs. However, as most groups brought along an impressive array of synths, the turnaround in between each took almost as long as some sets. The audience at the venue gently swelled towards the end of the show, but not in an overwhelming way, and was pleasingly mixed – although with a slight bias towards middle aged men.

I arrived for Pictish Trail, who was wearing a very natty boiler suit and cap, embroidered, as he explained, with the corporate logo of Thumb Inc (a reference to his new album, Thumb World). His mini-set was performed by himself and "Suse", a synthy, celebratory half-hour or so. He concluded on his new single, a song with an excellent bass line, and encouraged the audience to dance like the snowmen at the end of the eponymous film, which they gladly and gloriously did.

After my dinner break, I came back to hear Islet, who moved through the audience to the stage with hand chimes, bringing an intense ethereality that characterised their set. The band moved between instruments, playing symbiotically and mutably, allowing for multiple singers and different sounds. They struck a good balance between soft and harsh songs, with Emily Daman providing some haunting vocals. They played with exuberance and physicality, their song "Caterpillar" providing a particular highlight. They also sweetly explained that this was the first gig that they had performed in London since 2014 – they’ve certainly been saving up the energy.

Next up were Death and Vanilla, a band with perhaps the best lineup of synths of the evening. Their looping sounds were complemented by a shimmering guitar and soft vocals, along the Cocteau Twins line. They were a pleasure to watch, and a balm to listen to.

Jane Weaver as Fenella saw an intensification in crowd numbers, and an almost reverential interest from the audience. Her voice wove in and out of the songs, clean, pure, and clear. Far less poppy than her previous output, Fenella is a triumph – haunting and atmospheric. Conceived as a soundtrack to Marcel Jankovics’ animation, Fehérlófia, Weaver’s vocals are underlaid with psychedelic synths, provided by Raz Ullah and Peter Philipson. The project is described as ambient, but there are some moments of real terror conveyed through sound, as in "Battle", which filled the space with an eerie, beating electronic pulse.

The culmination of the evening was Vanishing Twin, who brought great energy to the audience, some of whom had been there for more than five hours by that point. Their sound was underlaid by Susumu Mukai’s excellent bass and carried by lead singer Cathy Lucas. More inviting and diverse sounds you couldn’t ask for.


Vignette-like brevity gave a neat taste of each band


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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