BEING the Manchester International Festival there is a certain amount of pressure on the acts to up the ante and produce something truly special for the occasion, a challenge that Delphic duly accepted as they ambitiously re-imagined their latest album Collections. Unfortunately the result was mixed.
With such an eclectic mix at the band’s disposal the question was how would it all synch together and, more importantly, where would the band actually fit on the packed stage?
Critically lauded for their debut album Acolyte, due to its refreshing, synth based selection of dance inducing tracks, four years later and Delphic have taken the bold approach of abandoning their successful musical formula. Although still electronically fused, Collections is musically far more ambitious and complex than its predecessor, up tempo, catchy songs like Counterpoint have been replaced with slow, thundering compositions.
While Collections is a bold change for Delphic, their performance in the Albert Square’s Pavilion Theatre was a further step from their traditional approach.
Discarding their electronic ways the Stockport natives brought a glut of instruments. Already assembled on stage upon entering the venue, the sheer amount of kit was overwhelming, resembling a music shop jumble sale.
On top of traditional violins and French horns were a range of more obsure creations from across the globe including a Javanese gamelan, the Oriental guzheng, African kora and the inexplicably funny accordion.
With such an eclectic mix at the band’s disposal the question was how would it all sync together and, more importantly, where would the band actually fit on the packed stage?
With the dulcet tones of Ling and Ying (their actual names) plucking the guzheng, the green, black and burgundy suits of Delphic arrived. After a series of experimental pieces the show really got going with Of the Young.
The world music ensemble banged, plucked and blew into life. But with so much going on visually and musically the performance descended into a racket at times, the huge pounding of the drums overshadowing vocals and accompanying orchestra alike.
As the show continued at a hasty pace the tracks merged together, few managing to disturb the crowd from their gentle bobbing in the supposedly sold out, yet spacious theatre. Despite some songs sounding like a confused children’s music class there were a few cases in the 45 minute set where this global music ensemble came together wonderfully.
The stand out Baiya and the thumping Atlas were the most complete and smooth performances of the night, showing a masterful arrangement of translating Delphic’s electronic sounds to the variety of worldly sounds available to them.
Unaccommodating to the hit and miss musical approach was Delphic’s lack of stage presence.
Once the trio abandoned their lavish suit jackets (due to the baking heat in the oven that was the Pavilion Theatre) there was little interesting about them. Perfectly nice, gracious and accommodating but vocalist James Cook lacks the persona of an enigmatic and absorbing frontman.
Elsewhere lead guitarist Matt Cocksedge plays with such apprehension that you would be forgiven for thinking he’d been roped into the gig after his first lesson. Not every guitarist needs to, or can, be like a marauding Wilko Johnson or raucous Pete Townshend, but Cocksedge would inspire not only the music, but also the crowd into life if he played with just an ounce more vigour.
Needing to raise their game for the festival, Delphic opted for the ambitious. Bringing in every instrument they could, bar the comb and handkerchief, to showcase their music like never before.
Admirably innovative but ultimately lacklustre, forging a clatter of sounds rather than a congruence of brilliance the performance limped to an underwhelming finish. Delphic’s greatest success has come from their electronic based tunes, by stripping that away from the music, as they did here; it leaves a monotonous array of tracks that fail to be little more than just all right.
Delphic performed as part of Manchester International Festival 2013, which has now ceased to be. Sigh
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