Live Performances #1 Featured Image

Live Performances We Recommend #1 – Tinashe, Tei Shi, Crystal Fighters, Ex:Re, Qrion, Shadowax, Oklou

In the age of COVID-19, we have seen artists experimenting with the scope and purpose of a live performance, and musicians have been able to bring the live concert to the safety of your home. Here is a list of concerts and live performances we have gathered from around the web that brightened our previous year and briefly made us forget about the harsh reality of the pandemic:

1. Tinashe – 333 Tour Full Performance (Live from Moment House)

Moment House is one of those websites that heavily contributed to artists being able to connect to fans from all around the world, by providing stunning live experiences at a small cost. After the Moment expired, Tinashe just uploaded the whole concert online for free on her Youtube channel. You just have to admire that.

Tinashe walks us through the narrative that is her career using one of her signature moves – the mashup. Even the electric guitar doesn’t spoil what is essentially an essential alternative R&B concert, announcing one of the most interesting moments in her career – taking full control of her independence.

“As an entertainer and a creative person, I feel limitless. I don’t feel pressure to conform, because I don’t have to. I don’t sit around and wait for opportunities to fall out of the sky either. When I started making music, I took it upon myself to learn how to do everything. There are very few female producers and engineers. I want to represent that you can be part of each step in the process. In the more recent years, it’s been a discovery of all the things I can do. There’s a sense of boundlessness and fearlessness. I really developed my instincts, and I trust them.” ~ Tinashe

2. Tei Shi – Live at The Moroccan Lounge, DTLA 11/17/2019

Electronic r&b (also known as alternative r&b) is one genre that gained a lot of traction during the last decade in non-mainstream music. It redefined r&b as something more accessible, but also more complex (eerie soundscapes and vocal loops), less upfront, more personal.

Among the artists that adopted this genre and made it their own is Tei Shi (Valerie Teicher), with her brilliant songwriting that fully shines in this 45-minute intimate walkthrough of her body of work.

Even something like ‘tu amor me esta matando‘ sounds like something new when used by her, something radical, while aimed directly at the listener – because this music was released through independent labels, it was far better at direct communication and staying relevant. ‘Keep Running’ is a crowning achievement and a real demonstration of what what the genre can do, and the last four minutes turn ‘Bassically’ into a masterpiece. There’s also a bossa nova song in there too, and the concert takes a whole new ‘world music’ direction about halfway, which only enhances the mood and leaves one feeling refreshed.

“For me, I don’t really feel like I have any particular main influences or artists that I pull from; it’s more of an underlying effect of such a big range of music that I love and I identify with – and all of that plays into what I do in minimal ways. I just really try to make music that reflects my identify, which is hard to pin down and is a lot of different things. I strive to make music that is hard to describe and meshes a lot of different genres, with the vocals being the thing that ties it all together.” ~ Tei Shi

3. Crystal Fighters – “CRUÏLLA 2016”

Crystal Fighters’ lead singer, Sebastian Pringle, is just one of those guys who just manage to make you feel completely at peace, and yet utterly energized. Listening to Crystal Fighters is a unique form of meditation – blending surf-rock with an old-school hippie attitude, but also often crossing into stadium-rock territory (the whole blend can be called ‘beach rock’, but perhaps the name of their second album, ‘Cave Rave’, best describes their sound). Wikipedia also lists them as ‘Basque-folk’, and from their own lyrics, Sebastian was born in Argentina but later moved to the UK.

The best thing about Crystal Fighters might be how well Sebastian’s voice sounds when combined to that of the two female vocalists, Ellie Fletcher and Louise Bagan. Fletcher joined the band in 2010, and she managed to balance her role in CF with her separate career as Kyiki and later, Eleanor K (she just released an album some months ago). The video for ‘At Home’, arguably the very best song Crystal Fighters’s ever released, doesn’t feature Fletcher at all – it features the first vocalist, Laure Stockley – but she is still an integral part of the band, perhaps BECAUSE she has a separate career and can bring somewhat of an outsider view (just listen to her ‘The Panic’s Over’ and see – Bagan also has a separate career, as part of duo ‘Addictive’, although whether they’re still active is a bit of a mystery).

Sebastian provides the energy and the good vibes, sometimes reciting more than singing, with Ellie and Laure’s warm voices as counterpoint – together, all three vocalists manage to sound like a whole and create some amazing harmonies in the band’s best moments.

I don’t like to make overly conscious protest music even though I believe in my heart there’s many, many things to protest about from deforestation to poverty and wealth distribution, womens’ rights and all these things. I just don’t want to say it in a song because our music is about happiness and escapism. But hopefully, if you’re open for these ideas, then the cryptic messages, the metaphors, come through to you and you start thinking “Ah, they’re saying something more, maybe I should look in to that or look in to them or read an interview and understand where they come from, and then find out.” ~ Sebastian Pringle

4. Ex:Re – BBC 6 Music Festival 2019

There is an implicit trust relationship between musician and listener that ultimately contributes to one’s enjoyment of a live concert. For Ex:Re to work as its own thing, Tonra had to demolish the ‘Daughter-trust’ so she could forge a new one. She starts by ditching not only the post-rock sound, but also the careful, eloquent storytelling. Ex:Re is truly about X-Ray vision: an incisive, deeply personal look at disappointment, frustration, resentment, fear and lost love. The lyrics are much more direct and confrontational, and Tonra stops every now and then to mention what she’s feeling in that precise moment.

Clever wordplays and honest lyrics are what make this live performance shine:

‘I guess attention spans are lessening/ It’s a lesson in humans using machines/ To show their feelings (Who, who, who, who)’ – ‘Crushing’

‘Throwing stones against my windows/ Sounds a lot like young love/ Yeah, I wouldn’t know/ I was always terrified of touching’ – ‘I Can’t Keep You’

I think about the falsity of hotel sex/ Expensive bed sheets and the orange glowing filaments/ The way you used to say you love me/ In the heat of it, holiday feeling’ – ‘The Dazzler’

Ex:Re’s music is distancing, yet oddly and alluringly intimate, and with a a release of energy and lyrics that feel like a dagger to the heart (‘Romance’), the concert ends by leaving you wanting more, like every good thing should.

“Everything is super personal. Basically all of the songs are ‘this is my life and what I feel about it.’ That’s how my brain works and thinks about things. It’s really strange because I never really think about what I want to write about – it sort of just comes out. I literally say whatever is in my brain.” ~ Elena Tonra

5. Qrion – DJ Set (Anjunadeep Japan Takeover)

[We wrote a more recent look at Qrion’s DJ set in this article here]

6. Shadowax – Boiler Room x Ballantine’s True Music: Moscow, 2021

How BONKERS was this Shadowax (aka Mirabella Karyanova, also known as Ishome) late-2021 live set? It gets there very fast, the voice samples alternating from ‘male-text-to-speech’ and the girl from ‘Nikolai Reptile’. Shadowax is a lot more playful and absurd than Ishome ever was.

I’m a pizza…I’m a cucumber…please don’t eat me’.

‘Ochen’ seems like a track designed for gym workouts, but which she then evolves into a heavy-bass minimal track, and then there is the ‘Ras Dva’ one, which is one of the most insanely-danceable techno songs of the past 5 years, with its upwards & downwards bass and whistling. Another great song, featuring a spoken word piece akin to H.G. Wells being read by Orson Welles, is a dark track, but it also sounds like the culmination of everything Shadowax brings new to the table in techno. Googling ‘the greatest gift she gave us was the Promise’ absolutely broke Chrome, but it seems like Mira was quoting the Silverwing series – literary nerds beware: it is a series of children’s books about…a young bat, written by Kenneth Oppel, and the samples could originate from openaudiobook.com🙂

And then there is ‘A&B’, a track that is recognizable from the words and the true highlight of the show – she’s reciting letters from the alphabet and surely finding some crazy associations.

Overall, this is Mira out-Cyberia-ing herself as Ishome and truly delivering that music for your acid trip. 50 minutes of bliss, which ease you in and then throw you in the middle of the madhouse.

“I’m not sure that Shadowax has a distinct impulse to nostalgia, but for the sake of irony there is a wagon and a small cart. It just often happens that things that seem funny to me do not seem so to anyone else (or so it seems to me, at least). Now I like absurd humor. And as a child, I read a book about Pippi Longstocking, stories about Denis Korablev and Ostap Bender, I loved the 1988 film Inveterate Scammers” – Mirabella Karyanova

7. Oklou presents galore ⁿⁱᵍʰᵗᵈʳⁱᶠᵗ | Boiler Room: SS21

This Boiler Room performance, like many others during the pandemic, defies the scope of a concert, by merging it with a movie set (virtual world), but it is still very much a live performance. The heavy Youtube compression rarely lets you bask in the visuals (perhaps there is a flawless 1080P copy somewhere), and the first 17 minutes keep you at a safe distance. That totally changes once Marylou starts playing an extended version of ‘Asturias’, a trip-hop song which uses a great visual gimmick, and actually lets you see her work that synth organ.

There are times when Oklou sounds a bit like a musician signed by the PC Music label (R.I.P. Sophie 🙁 ) would (that is much more apparent in studio versions of ‘Girl on the Throne’ or her remix of Caroline Polachek’s ‘Door’) – perhaps this is why she was remixed by AG Cook and probably courted by the label in the meantime. But instead she decided to tour with Polachek, and it has to be said that ‘Pang’ and ‘Galore’ sound like sister-albums (although Galore is a mixtape, with a less clear direction as a result), and they are both dependent on the accompanying visuals.

The presence of a male vocalist with the same autotuned voice is a nice departure, and this performance as a whole is a lot less vocoder-dependent than the mixtape itself. From around halfway until the coda, the performance becomes a semi-acoustic one, and the night turns into morning. Words do not do this ‘nightdrift’ justice – its effect is mesmerizing, and Oklou, a great songwriter and producer – sometimes she sounds like Diplo, sometimes like Flume, sometimes like FKA Twigs – was one of our favorite new artists in 2021. Film fans should be aware of fact that she starred in a short film by Caroline Poggi and Jonathan Vinel, one of the more eclectic pairs of French filmmakers working today.

“It’s completely connected to the story I’m telling, which is about reconnecting with myself by escaping reality. It’s a bit contradictory, but that’s because I’m looking for answers. I go through these phases, where I imagine myself as someone else, and at the end of the journey, I find my true self.” – Oklou

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That’s it for the first An Empty Bliss series of amazing live performances we’ve seen lately. This is just the beginning – there’s a lot more where this came from, and this will be a section of our website we’ll be updating regularly, at least for the entire duration of the pandemic. So stay safe, grab your headphones and settle in for an amazing experience!

Image: MULATU ASTATKE AND BAND LIVE AT MUSEO PECCI, 2019, ACRYL ON CANVAS, 200 X 150 CM by Giulia Spignoli

Music is a project about music as the beauty of the power of play music together. As harmony between people. As a living miracle. Is a study about colors, strokes, forms and the feeling between painting and sound.

http://www.giuliaspugnoli.com/music/

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