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Carl Craig @ The Barbican, 6th April

Billed as the Carl Craig Synthesizer Ensemble, I was not too disappointed with the set up - four keyboard players and piano. Carl was very chatty this evening and said that the synths in use were three Dave Smith Prophet 6’s and a Dave Smith Oberheim OB6. So, very definitely part of the current wave of sexy new analogue synths.

Before I review the gig, I know you synth fans will want to hear the jam session at the end where each keyboard player did a little solo in a very classic keyboard player style. Unfortunately missed the first guy, but got the other three and the pianist (Kelvin Sholar). Sorry about the visuals, I wasn’t really paying that much attention, more listening to the grooves!

The gig itself was very enjoyable; it’s always a bit weird hearing dance music in a classical music venue - it never quite feels right. Though the nature of tonight’s music was much more on the epic and symphonic scale - from the album Versus - so was less about the dance and more about the journey of the tracks. What also helped was the large back projection of Detroit cityscapes.

The visuals were immediately compelling - an orange circle with a black cross on it filled the screen at the start - an already pleasing geometric image. Then as the camera (drone!) rose up, it was revealed to be the top of some weird chimney in the middle of a Detroit intersection, with roads going everywhere, strange pedestrian raised tunnels and curves, and geometry everywhere. A very arresting and exciting sequence.

In fact nearly all the images of Detroit were epic and grand in some way - focussing largely on the tall buildings in what I assume is central Detroit. Craig was clearly trying to present a view of Detroit other than the ‘apocalypse porn’ we often see of the decaying buildings there, following the collapse of the car industry. And judging from what he himself said, he is definitely proud of his home town and wants to try and change the standard narrative we have.

And I think that worked. The music fit the visuals perfectly; frequently starting from a small repetitive phrases before building into huge, overwhelming climaxes, it felt to me  (nearly) like a Koyaanisqatsi for the 21st Century. The pieces started at night, moved from dawn and daytime before returning to sunset and night.

I think that feeling would have been intensified had Carl not done so much talking in-between tracks, but it was actually quite nice to go to an electronic music gig and hear something about the motive for writing the music, and some reminisces about previous times in London, etc.

And then to round things off, we had the jam / solo session as embedded above. And why not - after quite an intense hour of music it was fun to let off a bit of steam and enjoy a bit of unpretentious synth noodling!