Bicep at Saatchi Gallery Online
There were some snarling comments on social media about the price of tickets for this event, reflective of the fact that society tends to consistently undervalue creatives and their contribution to our lives. The fact that a swarm of virtual ticket touts descended on the social media promo with alarming doggedness suggests that, indeed, this gig was in fact worth a lot to many people.
Northern Irish electronic duo Bicep is comprised of childhood friends Matthew McBriar and Andrew Ferguson. Their sound is so fully formed, it’s surprising that latest release Isles is only their second full-length album. Their music uses disparate influences and samples (Apricots features both a 1958 recording of traditional Malawian singers and a Bulgarian choir) to create a focused, distinctive sound that lovingly recalls 90s raves, while also being fresh and modern. Orbital, Leftfield and Underworld are clear influences. Breakthrough single Glue, from their 2017 self-titled debut album on Ninja Tune, embodies the mix of euphoria and melancholy that the best electronic music can create: the strange ability to make listeners think of everything and nothing at once.
In these curious times, their sumptuous sound lends itself well to kitchen raves. Like in the days of yore, when mere mortals who missed out on Glastonbury tickets had to settle for “Glastonsettee”, watching the coverage at home with a crate of cider, a face-full of (dolphin-friendly) glitter and a self imposed one-hour queue to the loo for extreme authenticity, these are now the days of the kitchen rave. This transmission from the Saatchi Gallery was highly anticipated by frustrated ravers. One man had even invested in a projector to treat his eight year-old daughter to an immersive experience for her first ever gig – and Bicep did not disappoint. Dressed in black in the cavernous white space, facing each other over their mixers, they tore it up, expanding their sound for the live experience, highlighting the lovely tunes and muscular beats.
The dance music-film actually lends itself well to showing the skill of DJs and producers (notably in Tripping with Nils Frahm last year): close-ups of their work over mixers the size of spaceship control panels emphasise the skill. Here, the visuals by Black Box Echo were are perfect complement to the music, psychedelic and shifting with each new track, with images of the musicians’ hands twisted into something resembling a DNA helix. A shot of the duo was mirrored into a sprawling kaleidoscope.
When Clara La San’s delectable vocal dropped in at the start of Saku (a haunting track with old-school UK garage inflections), McBriar allowed himself a little smile at the beauty. What followed was a run of the most euphoric order: Sundial morphed into Glue and they finished with a perfect combination of Apricots, and then Aura.
Beauty takes many forms and it was clear a lot of thought had gone into this show. Bicep know their audience well – everything from the track list to the visuals was perfectly calibrated with a result that was heartwarming and invigorating, showing that the party doesn’t stop, it just adapts. Worth every penny.
Photos: Sam Mulvey
For further information and future events visit Bicep’s website here.
Watch the video for the single Apricots here: