Fieldhead, Kinbrae at Glad Café 25/2/18

The cosy, chai-wafting interiors of the Glad Café are just what’s needed on one of the coldest days of the year so far, but tonight’s gig isn’t here to offer comfort so much as recalibrate your sense of time, space and perception.

First to the stage are brothers Andy and Mike Truscott of Kinbrae, who conjure the atmospheric Isle of Coll with a selection of mesmerising cuts from 2016’s Tidal Patterns: a record that mixes local field recordings with mellow brass and careful instrumental arrangement.

 

In a live setting, this comprises a relatively elaborate synth set-up, coupled with sensitive trumpet motifs which lend immediacy to a performance which by its very nature yearns for landscapes beyond this darkened room.

Respectfully, the audience leave a wide semicircle of space before the stage, as if afraid of interfering with the smooth transfusion of sounds at work.

There’s an environmental subtlety to Kinbrae’s work that recalls Jon Hopkins, or Björk in the glimmering, reflective Vespertine.

Tidelines are suggested by curves of quietly resounding chords, while stretches of ambient textures and attentive music concrète come to climax with spiralling, euphoric brass riffs.

The whole effect is one of genuine rapture: tonight’s crowd are clearly here to surrender to the intricacies of the music, and not a word is spoken from anyone during the set, as we’re held so close on the same plane of reverie.

Tracks like ‘Constellations’ twinkle with layered chords, then build under elegant notes of brass and soft percussive beats.

The mood oscillates between passages tinged with melancholy tranquillity and moments of crescendo and cathartic release.

In the short pause between sets, I have time to check the solidity of the concrete floor where I’m sitting, to reassure myself of the present by flipping open the light of my phone screen.

For a while, we all were drifting.

It’s a pleasant kind of drifting, like being sailed north west to an island that flickers in and out of focus, dependent on weather; there’s a sense that Kinbrae’s music tunes into that weather, deftly picking up notes from the sea and the sky and the wind.

Fieldhead continue on a similar trajectory, but their set has a pulse and imperative to it that is absent in Kinbrae’s more serene, pensive aesthetic.

If Kinbrae explore the details of locality, landmarks and sketches of sand under sunset, Fieldhead take a more intense, stylised approach in their panoramas of sound.

Where previous Fieldhead records share more of Kinbrae’s ambient, neo-bucolic leanings, 2017’s We’ve All Been Swimming indicates a metropolitan turn to something darker, more cluttered and tinged with apocalypse—and this is the general direction of tonight’s gig, which draws heavily from Fieldhead’s most recent album.

Where Kinbrae’s set is performed as one seamless transition, Fieldhead take a pause to retune between tracks, allowing the audience time to digest their compacted, urgent and dramatic arrangements.

Throughout, Paul Elam’s throbbing synths are effortlessly patterned in labyrinthine formations, sinuously tracking their way through moments of anxious pause and full-blown techno-euphoria, all the while woven with icy strains of violin.

Although performed as individual tracks, this feels less like a set than a unified suite, guiding us through shape-shifting arpeggios and Colin Stetson-esque shivers of warbling emotion that artfully blend the organic and machinic.

Merging eccentric rhythms with more fluid beats, Fieldhead recall the dancefloor hauntology of Pye Corner Audio, while attuning to sonic geographies in the sprawling, cinematic manner of Boards of Canada or the shuddering Anthropocene beats of Loscil.

It’s clear both Kinbrae and Fieldhead are testing the edges between sound and environment, challenging listeners to pay attention to the world around us—beautiful and sometimes degraded—in ways both subtle and striking.

While Kinbrae encourage a more passive, absorbing and observant mode of listening, one that slows us down to notice the nuance of specific locality, Fieldhead channel the affective ruptures and surges of everyday life under late capitalism—blurring distinctions between rural peace and urban trauma—with every note sparking an anxiety that feels both climatic and climactic.

 

Words: Maria Sledmere

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