Review: James Holden & Camilo Tirado @ Church of Sound (London, 23rd October 2016)


Words can’t do justice to what went down at the St. James the Great Church, a.k.a. Church of Sound, in Clapton on Sunday 23rd October. It was one of those concerts hard to forget, one of those experiences you need to tell everyone and show video and pictures of – although they can’t do it justice either.

Set in a fully functioning church, covered with carpets for the occasion, three acts, strikingly different in terms of background, genre, and style, captured the audience for over three hours.

Indonesian food could be bought at the entrance, and consumed whilst waiting for a new act to take the stage, lulled by the fabulous mixes of NTS veteran Cherrystones and Deep End/Sinema City (the latter is one of the minds behind the whole gig). Music never stopped playing for the entirety of the night, and once inside the venue it was like being in another dimension you wouldn’t want to escape. A spell was cast onto the audience, which included a number of renowned musicians, such as Caribou, Gold Panda, Bo Ningen’s drummer, and Anchorsong.

First to perform were Ex-Easter Island Head, a musical collective, primarily performing as a trio, hailing from Liverpool. Masters of experimentation, they played electric guitars as if they were percussions, alongside real percussions, switching roles every now and then, creating rhythmic, minimalist, melodic suites beyond imagination. It was a pleasure to hear as well as to see, as they played in a highly choreographic and perfectly synchronised manner, dressed the same and in a circle facing each other.

What followed was also highly choreographic and synchronised – it even featured a traditional dancer clad in traditional clothes – but quite different in terms of musical style, though a common thread between the three acts wasn’t too hard to identify.

A large group made up of men and women, young and old, Westerners and Balinese people, known as the LSO Community Gamelan, sat on the carpets encircled by the public, and performed traditional Balinese gamelan, a form of music emerging from the intertwining of singing with the sounds of metallophones of various sizes, xylophones, and flutes. Their set ended with a surprising acapella performance. You wouldn’t believe it was human unless you saw it.

Around 10pm, headliners James Holden and Camilo Tirado came out and sat down on a long black table, from where they performed a non-stop ambient set, which immersed the whole venue into a new, peaceful atmosphere. The electronic sounds of Holden were woven with the rhythms of the tablas, played by Tirado. In a powerful yet natural way, it seems the union was meant to be.

Once the show was over, it was hard to leave the church and go back to reality.

photo ©: Camille Blake

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