Live: Fuck Buttons, Mount Kimbie & Fennesz – The Barbican Centre, London, Friday 25th April 2014

The Barbican recently hosted Mount Kimbie and Fuck Buttons as part of a series of concerts celebrating Bleep’s tenth anniversary. Piers Barber was there to enjoy some expensive cocktails and exhilarating dance music.

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There may be the usual programmes on seats and start time announcements over the loudspeaker, but there’s something highly bizarre about this Friday night in the Barbican Hall, which tonight plays host to Mount Kimbie and Fuck Buttons as part of the tenth anniversary celebrations for online music store Bleep. Futuristic dance music, after all, is certainly not the norm at this seated venue, and many initially do not seem all too comfortable with the arrangement; be it the elderly stewards more accustomed to hosting the London Symphony Orchestra or the week-weary youngsters itching to finish their Friday with some frantic feet shuffling.

Yet this imposing venue lends an undeniable sense of respectability to the occasion, providing definitive confirmation of the increasingly esteemed status of these two acts. In return, the audience is treated to two engrossing performances, both of which serve as refreshing reminders that sophisticated dance music can more than hold its own at culture’s top table.

Mount Kimbie are a far more intriguing live proposition today than when they first emerged, laptops in hand, from London’s dance music underground with 2010’s Crooks and Lovers. Thanks largely to last year’s Cold Spring Fault Less Youth, the London duo have shaken off that misleading ‘dubstep’ label for good, and tonight their renditions are rich and organic, all lush brass flourishes, live drums and warm organ patterns. Their old material remains exquisite, too: tonight the elasticised shuffle of ‘Mayor’ is a particularly captivating highlight, whilst wonky 2010 summer soundtrack staples ‘Maybes’ and ‘Before I Move Off’ retain a fascinating swagger and swing half a decade after their conception.

The performance (below) is a far cry from the band’s conventional appearances at cloudy British music festivals, with tonight’s stage enriched by waves of pinks, blues and oranges projected onto side screens and a giant shimmering sheet propelled to the sky by fans. The location occasionally threatens to derail their performance – the guiding torch beams and apologetic clambering of latecomers often distracts from the duo’s gradual sound layering – but their delivery is undeniably impressive in a grand and unforgiving arena.

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A slightly awkward interval, which grants the audience the opportunity to refuel with some organic ice cream and £10 cocktails, precedes Fuck Buttons’ headline show. It’s been a memorable few years for the Bristol duo, who last year released Slow Focus, their most widely celebrated album to date, after contributing music to the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony.

Stood either side of a vast desk piled high with analogue equipment, they don’t say a word all show, launching instead into a relentless showcase of their unique brand of pounding otherworldly techno. Each song seems to follow a similar model, piling up layer upon layer of incessant kick drums, swirling synthesisers and manipulated vocals to create almost overwhelming climaxes. At points their songs feel infinite, yet almost always in a hypnotic, engrossing fashion rather than a repetitive one. It’s undeniably tribal and infectious, and ‘Surf Solar’ from 2009 album Tarot Sport proves the tipping point for large proportions of this initially self conscious crowd, who can thereafter be seen bellowing approval and bouncing through the aisles during the set’s closing numbers.

The crowd files out to the woozy soundscapes of Fennesz, who has set up shop with his electric guitar and distortion pedals alongside Berlin video artist Lillevan in the foyer. His set – unconventional, weird, slightly out of place – certainly fits the tone of the rest of the evening. Also like the night’s other performances, though, it’s certainly a memorable show – and often a highly exhilarating one, too.

Follow Piers and the Music Factory on Twitter @piersbarber18 and @MusicFactoryNo1

Images: Barbican Contemporary Music Facebook page

2 responses to “Live: Fuck Buttons, Mount Kimbie & Fennesz – The Barbican Centre, London, Friday 25th April 2014

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