12th February 2016
O2 Ritz Manchester
Transfixed on a mesmerising light painting from the get-go (straight out of the Silhouettes music video), it finally clicked that I was in for a sensory onslaught. I should have seen this one coming. Elaenia, Floating Point’s 2015 debut album, offers an immaculate, unique and rewarding ambient listening experience. In moments of clarity it is gentle, but in moments of pure energy it soars euphorically. I was tentatively curious to see how this would manifest in the context of a live performance. Tentative despite knowing that when equipped with fifteen fellow musicians, Floating Points managed to win Best BBC Radio 1 Maida Vale Session. I should definitely have seen this one coming.
Sitting silently in the shadows at his electronic workstation, you could almost see the brain of qualified neuroscientist Sam Shepherd, a.k.a. Floating Points, precisely map out a variety of intricate details. Accompanied by clearly skilled but appropriately sparsely utilised guitarist, bassist and drummer, Shepherd’s melodies elegantly took centre stage. He toyed with his equipment; constantly experiment and testing, probing the machine for sounds unheard by human ears, like the crazy scientist I really want to believe that he is (but know that he probably isn’t).
To the uninitiated, the opening may have felt like a clichéd build up, but those of us familiar with Elaenia knew we were in for a treat. Within ten minutes, the arrival of the first all-out energetic passage, Silhouettes I, had gripped the entire audience, rendering us incapable of anything but motion. The previously mentioned euphoric soaring parts of the album had translated perfectly into pure sonic bliss that, when paired with a near seizure inducing display of flashing light, created a weirdly evocative experience. Masterfully executed yet subtly complex jazz rhythms seamlessly flowed into each other keeping us on the very edge, before we’re repeatedly pushed over that edge, by the sheer awe of numerous climactic moments. Full appreciation of this layered depth really requires listening to Elaenia. A large amount of the crowd appeared to have failed to do so, and instead unappreciatively decided to talk over more minimalistic (but still tense) parts of the performance.
The wonderfully coherent visual and auditory aesthetic continued for less than an hour, regularly swaying from blasting us with an unstoppable four-to-the-floor atmospheric thrash of energy, to relentlessly gripping our attention with an intense display of meticulously designed geometric patterns floating against the back wall of the stage, seemingly opening portals into other dimensions. The experience was an amplified version of listening to the album. A perfect transition from listening in full, eyes closed, whilst lying down, to soaking in a flawless incarnation of modern electronic music in its most authentic form. Floating Points clearly gives it his all at every opportunity, and will be rewarded for that as long as he continues to do so.