Howler is an a truly unique venue. With its powerful sound system, high ceilings and lighting embedded in the walls, it is perfect for the kind of audio-visual experience that much of the audience have come to expect when seeing a DJ or electronic act.
Arriving in time to see Fishing, it is clear that my ignorance about this act was a real loss. The Sydney duo made up of Russell Fitzgibbon and Doug Wright launched into a slamming set to a criminally empty room. Utilising a variety of sounds, samples and beats, they showed a real knack for building energy across a set. Playing with a lot of lighter tones, what started as a upbeat house set turned more minimal and bass driven at its conclusion. The most interesting aspect of their music however was a creative use of varying rhythms over the traditional four-to-the-floor beat, which kept the audience from going into mindless dance moves. Particular shout out to Doug who just looked so bloody happy to be there, which is always a delight to see.
Once Roland Tings graced the stage, the band room was packed and chatty (seriously, why pay good money to see an artist and talk the whole way through it?) After some high profile sets at various festivals, Roland Tings has developed a reputation for offering a very fun time. His performance at Howler however was more in line with the EP that this tour is promoting Each Moment A Diamond. Although still fun and upbeat, Each Moment A Diamond is more of a slow build and plays host to songs with more stripped back arrangements – this was reflected throughout the performance.
Roland Tings was joined for the entire set by a live drummer with a hybrid kit of acoustic drums and electronic pads. In dance music, live drums are always a real treat as they give the tunes the spontaneity of the human element, allowing for a depth to the tracks which you do not get in the recorded versions.
The opening song of both the EP and this set, ‘Turn Your Face Towards The Sun’ was well timed with its increasing tempo and gradual layering of sonic elements. Playing the majority of tracks from the new EP, the rendition of cuts like ‘Garden Piano’ demonstrated his shift towards a delicate touch, with high toned sounds at the foreground in the mix. This is particularly apparent in the last song and single of this EP, ‘Hedonist’ which offers atmospheric synths and cymbal scuttles that gave the drummer a real work out.
An expected encore gave the crowd what they wanted. The response to his most well known track ‘Pala’ was much more enthusiastic than anything I had seen in the rest of the set. The brighter rhythms and hi-hat beats appealed to the crowd’s desire to dance and have a good time, which had been somewhat stifled with the renditions of Tings‘ more recent work. Although I very much enjoyed the set as it stood and admired Roland Tings’ dedication to playing the style of set that he wanted, it raised the question of the performers obligation to the audience. Should Roland Tings have responded to what I perceived as the crowd’s desire for more danceable house material, or should he be free to stretch the experience of the crowd with an emphasis on his new slower material?
The answer is really in the eye of the beholder, but my feeling is that with a set this good, even if you don’t know a tune, it pays to get amongst it anyway.