Listen Out
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Listen Out




Listen Out, Australia's maiden 'Intelligent Dance Music ('IDM') festival' voyage, was orchestrated by ex-Parklife organisers, Fuzzy. It's tag line was 'Party Redefined', and it promised to be an antidote to big music festivals and a sanctuary for music lovers.

However, the Brisbane leg of Listen Out, held at the beautiful Southbank cultural forecourt, posed more questions than solutions: what makes a good headliner, how do you play electronic music live, and what is 'Intelligent Dance Music'?

Tyler Touché didn't have any answers (touché!). Awkwardly standing behind a low sheet that presumably hid a laptop or a pair of DJ decks, the Triple-J-Unearthed one-hit-wonder played an uneven selection of obvious indie-dance tunes. He mixed remixes of Jagwa Ma and D Cup without headphones, and was turned down ridiculously low.

Rufus certainly aren't 'Intelligent Dance Music'. The crowd streamed to the Sydney-band, and danced to the groups' dull sounds and meaningless lyrics. 'The dead are coming alive,' they sung. While the Zombie Walk was also on in Brisbane today, unfortunately there were no signs of life at the Atari Stage.

John Talabot, with collaborator and vocalist Pional, was the first antidote to this festival of antidotes. The duo's swirling synth sounds reached to space and back, beating at the steady pace of the human heart. Their rich textures and cosmic aesthetic fit together perfectly with the Spanish producer and Pional's murmurings.

Van She bassist, moustache-wearer, and all-round friendly guy Touch Sensitive was on next. Opening with a slow build, he construed a beat from the ground-up, before suddenly speeding the tempo and then getting into his trademark forceful and funky bass grooves. The crowd perked up for 'Pizza Guy', and less for 'Show Me', but were still bored enough by the relatively low-volume instrumentalism to pile three-high on each others shoulders. How the security company of old, white men won their contract is anyone's guess.

Alunageorge thankfully gave the crowd a recognisable pop tune with 'Just a Touch'. However, by the time the album cut 'Kaleidoscope Love' arrived, neither Aluna's dance moves, nor the groups' glittering, icy sheen, nor the great live bass playing were enough to distract the crowd from vomiting and fighting with each other.

American duo Classixx saw the sun down over the Brisbane River with their crisp and classy nu-disco sounds. Their simple but immaculate pop tunes, like 'I'll Get You', finally brought a party atmosphere to the festival-party. A live remix of Drake's 'Hold On We're Going Home' blended perfectly into their bouncing single 'Holding On', with a guest appearance by Touch Sensitive on bass.

The night then welcomed Azelia Banks, who played a rare full set for the festival crowd. A wall of security lined the stage barrier, and a Listen Out official appealed to the audience before the show to conduct themselves (i.e. not throw beer at Azelia, who had previously stormed off stages at Splendour, Future Music, and Listen Out). Her spitfire raps, dancers, and LED screens made for an immersive set of wild party bangers, with the jungle stomp of 'Jumanji' and her 'Harlem Shake' cover shaking the riverside. "Brisbane, (I]) can't forget you know," she rapped during 'luxury'.

Just blink and you'll miss a song in Just Blaze's set. The American hip-hop producer, who worked with Jay-Z on The Blueprint and The Black Album, played short snippets of songs, before cutting them dead, yelling encouragement at the crowd, and playing more segments in a similar manner. File this one under 'Confusing Dance Music'.

There was nothing confusing about TNGHT's set, though. The duo brought enough trap to make your neck sore. A glowing table pulsated underneath their decks, as a beat gained momentum like a speeding train. Lunice pumped up the crowd while Hudson Mohawke delivered volleys of hard-hitting beats. Their whole self-titled EP got played, dispersed with samples and rap remixes of 2 Chainz, Jay-Z, and a heavy dose of Hud-Mo-collaborator Kanye West. Billie Holiday's 'Strange Fruit' was mixed into 'Blood on the Leaves', before a triumphant sample of Willie Hutch's 'I Choose You' and the chorus of Yeezy's 'Bound 2' closed out the set. It would have seemed like a tasteless and blatant Kanye-plug if the duo didn't seem like they were enjoying it so much.

Disclosure were set to be the pinnacle of the night. Opening with a note-perfect 'F For You', the brothers played the songs off their debut album well, but were occupied with their instruments. There was no soul to songs like 'When a Fire Starts to Burn' or 'Boiling'; despite small ad-libs and live bass playing by Guy Lawrence, the pair seemed like teens playing Rock Band for a singer that didn't exist. After all, when your record is made from pre-set sounds, what else can you do live but trigger them? It made you wonder whether electronic dance music can truly be played live. While their sub-bass was powerful, there was no emotions to compliment it, in contrast to other electronic musicians like James Blake or John Talabot. Their pop divas were absent, save for an appearance by Aluna Francis, and their garage tunes became boring replicates of the 90s era.

In a time when the producer has out-shone the pop star, Listen Out has highlighted the problems of when producers try to take their shows on the road; producers may have killed the pop stars, but now they need them back. Ironically, Listen Out seems like it would have been better incorporated as part of a larger event.


Watch a video from the Sydney Listen Out below:


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