Unauthorised item in the bagging area

Tuesday 25 June 2024

Live At Soup- Marconi Union, Contours and The Flightpath Estate

On Saturday evening, as Manchester basked in the June sunshine and Stephenson Square was crammed with afternoon drinkers, The Flightpath Estate DJs (me and Martin on this occasion) arrived to play support to Contours and Marconi Union in the basement of Soup, a bar and gig/ club space in the corner of the square. Soup’s live space is a small room, capacity 150, with some of the most graffitied toilets in the city.

We started early, 6.20pm, with some ambient sounds, Martin and me playing back to back- Sedibus, Synkro’s brand new remix of Khartomb, Coyote, M- Paths, Andy Bell’s cover of Smokebelch, the Sabres of Paradise Endorphin remix of Bjork, Underworld’s Dark And Long (Most ‘Ospitable), Richard Fearless, Sabres Of Paradise’s Chapel Street 7am and a little bit of dub courtesy of African Head Charge and KlangKollektor. At 7.20pm promoter Paul Watt, the man who sorted it for us to play and sporting an Acid House Chancer t- shirt, introduced Contours.

Contours is Tom Burford, from Cumbria but now Manchester based. With his equipment set up at the front of the stage- Moog synth, oscillator, laptop and a large wooden xylophone- Tom starts out slowly, chilled washes of synth filling the space. A minute or two in Tom brings a beat in and from that point on he’s in constant motion, head bobbing, sudden flicks of the wrist that change the sound, drop out the drums and bring them back in, flitting between bits of kit and several times moving to the xylophone, little bursts of wooden melodies on top of the ambient/ electronic/ synth action. Tom doesn’t stop, the set building and flowing for forty minutes, shifting about as he works his way through his tracks. It’s vibrant and engaging, some hints of Four Tet in the sounds emanating from the stage, and very enjoyable.

This is Arp Phase from Contours' recent album Elevation, minimal, futuristic and organic sounding, the synths and oscillators sounding like they've come alive. 

We get fifteen minutes of DJ time while Contours’ equipment is moved and Marconi Union get set to play. There are three members of Marconi Union, from left to right, one playing keys and synth, one with a bank of synths and pedals and playing guitar, and the third on laptop. All three have headphones on and are seemingly lost in their own world, concentrating intently, fully focussed on their part in making the music. 

The songs build slowly, synth chords, waves of sound, drums thudding in, arpeggios from the Telecaster, piano lines and disembodied and distorted voices. Things happen slowly- glaciers move slightly and tectonic plates shift a little in while we wait for chord changes- and then suddenly, walls of noise swell and break. The films projected behind them echo what’s coming through the PA, variously liquids flowing, cityscapes, lines of people walking past from old films- tension and release, ebb and flow, light and shade. This is A Citizen's Dream from Signals, from the end of  2021. 


Echo and Rauschen said...

Sounds like an exciting evening, Adam! I got to know Marconi Union through their Ambient Transmissions, great ambient music. I got to know and love Tom Burford's Contours through the 2020 album Balafon Sketches. an album that moved between Balearic and Jon Hassel's fourth world moments. With Balafon C there is also a follow-up on the latest album for Music from Memory. To play beforehand is certainly a great honor. Enjoy this time. Greetings , Alex.

Swiss Adam said...

It was a good evening Alex, lots of good music from both the acts.