Opening with the energetic feel good from 2018’s ‘Kingdoms in Colour’, Maribou State confidently meet the anticipation of a quivering audience with a natural on-stage presence, such that you’d be easily misled into the thinking that this ain’t their first rodeo. Only that it is. Sort of.
Having only previously let loose their infectious strain of trending organic British electronica from the vantage of a pair of turntables, this run of 2019 Splendour side-shows marks the international debut of the act’s live show, bringing their unique brand of warm, live-instrument infused downtempo down-under for the first time in full fashion. And to be honest, there isn’t much to say about Maribou State’s live show that the duo of Chris Davids and Liam Ivory wouldn’t much rather let it say for itself.
Words are kept to a minimum as the full bodied percussion of a striking red maple kit lays the foundation. The silhouette of the four members are soon illuminated by just as many towering arrays of cascading LED’s and juxtaposed against the colour gamut of the Forum Theatre’s many synchronised down-lights, effervescently trickling through plumes of smouldering fog. A single tiki figure hangs from a Roland synthesizer. The majesty of the venue’s culturally ancient aesthetic and marble statuettes could not stand as a more fitting foreshadowing of what is to come.
Moments are shared with a smile between bandmates, as the striking pizzicato palm-muting of a single Fender Jaguar pick apart the space in between. And a warm bed of analog synthesis rumbles before the silk vocals of ‘Kingdoms in Colour’s Holly Walker herself, spun in the flesh. All dusted lightly by the masterful manipulation of shakers, tambourines, floor bongos and various other percussion performed interchangeably by each of the four throughout. Imagine if you will the organic stylings of Ninja Tune label-mates Bonobo and Bicep, and you’ll quite comfortably find yourself in good company here.
Throughout the evening we are delivered a greatest-hits compilation of all the best Davids and Ivory have in their roster. From piece to piece, medleys of the act’s work and various solo’s are used to bridge moments instead of traditional banter so seamlessly that it isn’t long until the crowd is cheering for the departed members to return with an encore, to which the four oblige with 2018’s clear crowd favourite ‘Turnmills’ and, a sentiment of which is returned by multiple patrons climbing upon the nearest pair of shoulders for a better view.
The movement of the diverse audience seems to ebb and flow with respect not only to the music, but to each neighbour. Whilst the lack of glamorous full-stack amplifiers, flashy showmanship, and overall theatrics and the like could be considered a missed opportunity, so analogous seems even the casual dress of each member, metaphorical almost in asserting an impression that the act do not take themselves too seriously. Rather, that the night is about fun, and the culmination of which even see’s Ivory taking a rogue drum stick to the performing drummer’s cymbals as they play in tandem.
A conscious re-assembling of the album track listing serves to telegraph early on in the proceedings that this won’t be a formulaic, press-play crossing of the T’s and dotting of the I’s, but a clever curation of what all comes together to culminate in the best possible live interpretation of their entire discography thus far. In stark contrast to the free-form musical sketches of openers Swooping Duck’s jazz-fusion odysseys, Maribou State deliver with their seventy-five minute translation an experience so pre-meditated, so concise in it’s purpose that it is clear that their rendition of a live show is not only derivative of their studio recordings, but iterating on their themes entirely. It’s a first foray into live depths that is anything but simply serviceable, and if there was any statement to be made here, it’s that this UK duo aren’t here to quietly do their job, they’re here to make a point.