Loose Lips

Simian Mobile Disco w/ Deep Throat Choir & Fatima al-Qadiri @ The Barbican, London - 04/04/18

Event Review

Simian Mobile Disco w/ Deep Throat Choir & Fatima al-Qadiri @ The Barbican, London - 04/04/18

Having hosted some of electronic music's legends such as Jeff Mills and Carl Craig, The Barbican kept up their run of formidable selections with another legendary act on Wednesday 4th April 2018; Simian Mobile Disco. The duo have done many live shows over the years, but this was different. A few weeks prior, member Jas Shaw was diagnosed with AL Amyloidosis and had begun chemotherapy. Having been told beforehand on social media, the crowd seemed to have been carrying an air of precaution...it was hard to tell with the mature Barbican atmosphere though, as opposed to that of some rough and ready underground club.

The opening act was a Fatima Qadiri live show, accompanied with visuals and light show courtesy of Emmanuel Biard. With her back facing the crowd, the Berlin-based Kuwaiti artist was sat on a chair with her body obstructing the projector, forming an endearing silhouette. For the opening song, footage from an old movie was projected in colour, showing a man and woman driving off into distant sandy deserts, saturated in red and blue. This didn’t cover the whole screen, but after the song ended, a giant illumination of red blanketed the whole backdrop. The music that accompanied it was dramatic and intense, often accompanied by Arabic singing. As the footage rolled on, black smog became visible along with aerial archive footage of burning oil containers during the First Gulf War. This tied nicely into the title of Fatima's new project, 'Ja7eem' (meaning 'hell' in Arabic), in which she explores themes of identity, war and memory. 

After a quick intermission, Simian Mobile Disco and the Deep Throat Choir began their long awaited performance. The impressive singing from the 27-woman choir was bright and omnipresent, amid the cosmic, industrious techno. The two didn't always complement each other though, leading me to empathise with how difficult it must be to mix so many vocalists with live electronic music. However, this is the task Simian Mobile Disco decided to set themselves. For the most part, the choir's levels overwhelmed - it could have been the presentation and the area in the hall where I was sitting, but it didn’t feel like a fresh and inventory electronic performance. The vocals and rough techno had merit if judged as stand alone parts, but the point of this performance was meant to be their combination - this marriage often missed the innovation that would excite me, especially when adding such vocals to an already complex and satisfactory production standard that could have been appreciated on its own.

It was not such throughout though. At certain points, when the choir was singing shorter vocal hits, it added a heavenly touch to the modular synths, particularly when the visuals in the background plunged into outer space. Also, one song seemed to have the vocals running through the modulars and this rendered them indistinct, adding a subtle textural quality to the electronic productions. As this performance is a build up to their sixth studio album featuring the same choir, moments like those do genuinely excite. As the last song finished, the ensemble was treated to a warm, joyous applause. Jas Shaw and James Ford shared a sentimental hug and walked off the stage, leaving the room seeming emboldened and uplifted.

On the whole, it was an enjoyable experience, particularly for someone who doesn’t often get to experience live choirs, showcasing the potential of such a reputable act to diversify its fan's listening palette. Given their history and prolific discography, there’s a lot to look forward to in the forthcoming album. The performance was not as boundary-pushing as one now often expects from Barbican events, but was still a collaborative display of artistry, with a great opening act that will surely resonate with this city’s promising young artists.


Simian Mobile Disco's 'Murmurations' is due for release on 11th May.

https://www.facebook.com/simianmobiledisco