Nina Nastasia, Cat Power, The National, Sigur Ros…. They’ve all fallen for the same thing – forsaking their soul in order to launch one of their tracks onto one of those short segments that get played for three minutes between television programmes.
So when Owen Pallet, otherwise known as Final Fantasy and a member of Arcade Fire, discovered an Australian company had been doing this against his will, he was understandably upset.
Fast-forward through some finger wagging and a court case and the end result is a victory for Pallett (hurray!) and the funding for the Maximum Black festival. Taking place in three cities across Europe, the event sees Pallett curating a touring “mini-festival” with special guests coming along for the ride each night. This London show, the only leg to take place in the UK, boasts some of the most recent avant-garde surprises, climaxing with a performance from Pallett himself.
We’ve not even reached the front of the (already lengthy) queue and can already hear Frog Eyes playing to a spacious auditorium. It’s a shame, but the number of bands on tonight has to cater to a “snooze you lose” mentality and the two songs witnessed come as a mere teaser to what could have been. Next time Frog Eyes, next time.
Ben Chasny is standing onstage and is slowly strumming, head faced to the ground, the gentle strum slowly getting louder and louder. This is Six Organs of Admittance‘s entrance and it tragically falls flat to the Friday night London crowd. Elisa Ambrogio (also of infectious noise duo Magik Markers) brings another layer to proceedings, with the two of them grinning at each other as if they know something we don’t. Maybe it’s the apparently deaf sound guy who’s making the vocals inaudible and the constant surrounding chatter all the more grating.
This slightly improves for Dirty Projectors, whose debut album has been a firm favourite on hundreds of indie blogs in the past year. It’s easy to see why once Dave Longstreth opens his mouth and his deeply unique voice bellows around the Forum’s walls. Each song is a lengthy essay, incorporating five different moods at once. The symmetrical four-piece look great on stage too (hooded girls, guitar past the waist) and this, perhaps, should have led us to our headliner.
Instead we get Sunn O)))‘s Stephen O’Malley, a man who seems to live, breathe and sleep drone, and ATP signing Alexander Tucker. With cello and guitar at their disposal, they deliver an undeniably pleasant noise but not one the vast majority of the crowd want to hear edging towards 11pm. Along with the bizarrely rave-like visuals, it’s just plain confusing and doesn’t translate in a vast space such as this.
It’s left to Final Fantasy to rescue a somewhat patchy evening and he tries his hardest. Walking out sans any other musicians, he playas a lively set consisting mainly of tracks from his previous two records. However, given what went before him, Pallet almost doesn’t seem an appropriate headliner. Those who left to catch a beer after the Dirty Projectors are appealingly proved right. He hasn’t lacked in charm, and the sound finally does get sorted to provide the crowd with an audible performance. What is annoying is that he’s given the same amount of time as the other acts, something that leaves a sour taste as we take our leave at the close of the dramatically late finishing event. “A promising failure,” one punter puts it, as we head for what is now the night bus.