Double bill of spaced out sweet sounds, Getintothis’ Harry Sumnall sets his phaser on stun and heads across to the best jazz house this side of Venus.
Paddy Steer is an idiosyncratic delight; a steam powered Mancunian Silver Apples who is equally comfortable receiving shortwave Numbers Stations through a glockenspiel tuner as he is Aetherius’ Venusian orations through a decaying vocoder.
Last seen in Liverpool performing in The Part Time Heliocentric Cosmo Drama After School Club as part of the Kazimier‘s Sun Ra tribute cabaret, Paddy retains his gold Aladdin Arkestra robe, but tonight its all about his semi shambolic tropicalia.
He sits amidst his rig, which includes organ bass pedals, MIDI keyboard & laptop, drum kit, vocal effects, and an intriguing home made contraption that combines multiple oscillators, mixer, sampler, and who knows what else. Occasionally playing a lap steel Hawaiian guitar, it’s his cosmic take on the one man band that’s the real focus though.
Paddy Steer and his spaceship arrive at The Capstone Theatre, Liverpool
Mostly based around sequenced bass, and a simple scatter drum beat, Paddy shifts between instruments, overlaying an array of bleeps, swoops, treated vocals and hand made sounds that swirl around in arabesque rhythms. Seemingly teetering on the edge of collapse, the music is in fact adroitly held together with an underlying precision and dedication that seems at odds with the chaos around him; its very cleverly done.
Amidst the lo-fi analogue funk, an almost unrecognisable cover of Sun Ra‘s Perfect Man slips by as though channelling Bruce Haack at his mescaline infused highest, and fittingly the set ends with a take on the Star Trek theme tune by way of the Twilight Zone. Get his 2013 album, the Fortified Herd, for an exquisite taste of his talent.
Loka live at The Capstone Theatre, Liverpool
Paddy’s connection with tonight’s other act, Loka, comes through his earlier work with Homelife on Ninja Tune, who released two albums of their DIY Northern exotica in the early 2000s. Apart from this earlier label connection though, there is little to connect the two bands, and it’s a really nice contrast across the evening, so full credit to the promoter.
Its good to see and hear Loka again. Hardly prolific, either live or on record, their two singles and two albums for Ninja Tune suggest an approach to music that is delicately and deliberately constructed through use of slide rule and log paper. They exist outside of the narrow networks and genres of contemporary music, to their career detriment no doubt, but as a result their music is pure and unaffected.
Their set tonight is grandiose, and with a permeating but subtle menace, typified by songs such as The Beauty in Darkness which condense the Loka sound; repetitive synth riffs, swirling guitars, complex (live) drums, and a skipping bass sound that shifts smoothly between reversed pulses and expressive melody.
The Vocalists from Loka live at The Capstone Theatre, Liverpool
Although the complex orchestrations and massed choirs found on album Passing Place cannot be replicated tonight, singers Tim Thomas, Jaci Williams, and Eli Cripps provide a suitable focal point, supported by the grizzled Loka éminence grise- a veritable who’s who of weird Liverpool and Manchester musicians over the last 15 years.
At times the singers depart the stage leaving the audience to bask in the sound of the instrumentalists – although considering the polite and refined Capstone PA, its difficult to truly drift away to whatever personal Pala is being invoked by the listener.
Loka have always had a strong visual aesthetic, and although somewhat of a cliché have frequently been (aptly) described as cinematic. Tonight’s projections of primitive video art and sequences of Ira Cohen‘s mythographic icons suggest the band are happy to detach themselves from conventional performance.
This lack of engagement might be problematic for those expecting engagement (barely a word is spoken throughout), but the sound is so self-assured and complete that it hardly requires acknowledgement that it is being delivered in front of you.
New tracks Inner Spiral, Oldest Light and Demented Waltz debuted tonight don’t bring too many surprises, but suggest the next Loka album will continue in the same vein of contemplative elegance.
Lets just hope its not another 12 months before we see them live in Liverpool again.
Pictures by Getintothis‘ Simon Lewis
Further reading on Getintothis:
Threshold Festival 2014: Full line up including Paddy Steer
Threshold Festival 2013: Review including Paddy Steer
Loka, Plank!, Dominoes, Melodien: The Lomax, Liverpool
Ninja Tune‘s Loka launches Passing Place at the Kazimier