Friday, February 6, 2015

As the crowd slowly enters The Hi-Fi Bar and Ballroom amongst a buzz of quiet anticipation, plumes of dry ice shoot through the air. Sitting in a semi-circle faced towards the stage, they appear unexpectedly informal, giving the impression of being in a studio space rather than one of the most prominent live music venues in Melbourne. Luke Howard sits at his keyboard, and begins to play heart-wrenching, tenderly ominous pieces to the audience sitting entranced before him. After every number a new member enters, eventually coming together to form a four-piece band. This endearing quartet transitioned seamlessly through progressive melodies, bringing the softest sounds to almost orchestral crescendo, only to fall back as if taking a deep breath, a sigh of relief. Luke Howard had set the tone for what was to be a beautiful night of eclectic talent.

With MY DISCO’s imminence well known to the crowd, they began to take a familiar shape as people from front to back stood eagerly. Dry ice continued to float across the stage, and a reserved excitement grew amongst the building audience. From the darkness, a deep rumbling bass drum shook the building, and a guitar’s feedback distorted almost to the point that it was unrecognizable as conventional sound. Deep intermittent vocals, often only one line, could be heard falling in and out of prominence. The hard, driven percussion led them to rise and fall, like the beating of a heart. What was particularly captivating about MY DISCO, was their ability to transition effortlessly from slow minimalist murmurs to climatic, layered and organized chaos; a kind of intentional insanity. The use of silence was particularly effective in boldly punctuating each rhythmic section, and came together with the at times abrasive strobe lights to produce an intense audiovisual experience. MY DISCO live is reminiscent of watching the most exciting scene of an action movie, coupled with jumping out of your skin at the chilling suspense of a thriller.

Ben Frost came onto the stage to a chorus of cheers, as he endeavored to set up the electronic complexity that lay on an antique wooden table set directly center stage. Anticipation filled the room as the Iceland based, Melbourne born artist fiddled with the two computers, mixer, keyboard and countless plugins before him, while his guitar lay in wait below. Almost everyone was standing now, and where only 2 hours ago The Hi-Fi had felt informal, it was now the unmistakable near capacity Ben Frost spectacular that was to be expected. A visceral, chaotic frenzy from the outset, Frost combined an intensity with which he would lunge at his fold backs guitar in hand, with the gentle ambience that resembled something like the running creek of a forest. With masterful sound design complimented by unpredictable live elements, Frost’s riveting and at times confronting sound mixed syncopated rhythmic intensity, otherworldly effects and driven melodies in an endless stream of unfamiliarity. Each song he played built relentlessly into all-encompassing, cacophonous symphonies of intricately layered sound. Despite the lack of breaks between songs, each sounded like a separate entity; each its own individual journey through a mysterious, unknown world. It was like the soundscape of an alien planet. His stage presence and pure creative energy were astounding to watch, as he let the audience glance into his unmistakable passion. His style has a certain omnipotence; it appeared to be present in each individual fiber of the room. In the walls as they shook, and in people’s chests as each beat of the drum collided with their being. The only thing that seemed even remotely vocal about his set was a heavy breathing ogre-like rumble that made a melodic and atmospheric ambient track unsettling and confronting. One particular highlight, from a set that could be said to have been a highlight from beginning to end, was the last track that Frost played. It gave the distinct impression of being beside a hospital bed, with a lone high pitched synth note that felt to be the life support of a patient whose existence was both the chromatic piano, and the regularly forceful beat of their heart. As his set and the night came to a close, only the heartbeat remained, dramatically punctuating his powerful performance. It was the perfect end to what can only be described as a night of pure musical magic.

 Written by Jack Ford