The Summer Series at Somerset House has been pretty inventive in choosing its artists over the years, but in securing a night for M83 they would appear to have pulled off an ideal match of band and setting. So it proved, with Anthony Gonzalez and his charges setting about their task of producing a sonic and visual spectacular with some relish.
Before the arrival of their spectacular show, however, we had the considerable plus of witnessing Norwegian singer / songwriter Susanne Sundfør in full flow. Clearly a gifted keyboard player as well as singer, Sundfør is already on to her third album, The Silicone Veil, and this looks set to be the one that brings her recognition over and above that already received in her home country. She has a truly striking voice as her principal weapon, covering an impressive range of both pitch and volume, with the ability to sing a note and grow it powerfully, as she did on two occasions at the end of her songs.
Accompanying her were a succession of cross rhythms and cutting bass lines, the influences appearing to come from sources close to Fever Ray and Tori Amos, but none of them were explicitly referenced, and with her persuasive, swaying delivery captivating the early arrivals, Sundfør made quite an impact, in spite of the suave rock posturing adopted by her keyboard player. The only regret was that she faced about a third of the audience, the two musicians in parallel at times as if stood at benches in a classroom, but that was a small gripe for music making of this calibre.
Sundfør could easily have sung for M83, such was the cut of her voice. When the band arrived it was like a whole new weather system was taking shape on stage, with industrial loads of dry ice blowing out over the crowd, mingling almost imperceptibly with the low hanging clouds overhead. To the atmospheric strains of Intro, from most recent album Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, the band arrived and proceeded to launch in to the now familiar set of high octane songs, many punctuated by a rush of drums and a host of primary colours in laser form.
The light show was indeed spectacular, and got better as the twilight faded, the red and blue hues projected on to all four sides of the courtyard to aid the effect of the music, itself high on adrenalin. Surprisingly Gonzalez and co opted to omit Kim And Jessie, one of their standout recent singles, and Midnight City received a surprisingly low key performance, with drummer Loïc Maurin less effective on the electronic kit. When he switched back to his normal instruments the whole song shifted up a gear.
Overall, though, this was a fully immersive sonic experience of grace and considerable power. While a number of songs stuck to the familiar quiet-loud formula there were some thrilling moments, notably the apex of We Own The Sky, the unstoppable juggernaut that was the closing encore Couleurs, Reunion and Sitting, which gave guitarist Jordan Lawlor the chance to show off his dance moves.
A strong gig, then – not wholly successful, but a stellar experience for those who had come to see the whole set; even those whose aim was seemingly to talk through everything that wasn’t Midnight City were eventually drummed in to submission.
M83 played: Intro; Teen Angst; Reunion; Sitting; Year One, One UFO; We Own The Sky; Steve McQueen; Wait; Fall (Daft Punk cover); This Bright Flash; Midnight City; My Tears Are Becoming a Sea; ENCORES: A Guitar And A Heart; Skin of the Night; Couleurs