LIVE REVIEW: Zola Jesus, Light Asylum, Forces @ Sydney Opera House Studio (31/05/12)

by C. Familton

Forces were up first in this evening that showcased the darker side of contemporary electronic music. The Melbourne duo made great use of the Opera House’s exceptional sound quality and seemed to win over a large portion of the audience with their industrial post punk electro set. They combine a bunch of sounds from the past, particularly the early 80s, yet it conjured up a dystopian futuristic mood of the kind that Cabaret Voltaire excelled at.

Light Asylum have a reputation for bringing intensity to their live shows, something that is often lacking with live electronic music. They did just that with Shannon Funchess proving to be a formidable front-person both in voice and presence. Unfortunately she wasn’t helped by her vocals being buried too low in the mix, a crime when her voice is their main weapon. She made up for it though, with a magnetic performance that saw her stalking the stage, wildly flailing limbs and drumsticks, getting in the faces of those in the front row and generally bringing an intensity that drew the audience into her music. Bruno Coviello was Funchess’ silent synth partner, happy to let her command the limelight while he maintained the intensity on highlights like Dark Allies and tracks from their new album like A Certain Person and IPC.

The impression that Light Asylum made was soon eclipsed by the brilliance of Zola Jesus and her trio of musicians. She was nothing short of a revelation both in terms of her visual presentation and the power and passion she conjured up with that voice. It was quite astonishing how someone so small in stature could project such a powerful sound. She traversed the scales from low brooding notes all the way up to exultant screams and near operatic wailing. At the same time she skipped around the stage and through the audience, threw her body into musically triggered convulsions and showed a real devotion and skill at performing her songs rather than just standing and singing them. Mainly playing tracks from her last two albums she gave us the percussive Vessel, the uplifting pop feel of Sea Talk and a magical take on Night that encapsulated her exceptional ability to create and sustain tension in her music. The serene visuals of slow moving white smoke and droplets of water completed what was a mesmerising performance from Zola Jesus.

 this review was first published in Drum Media

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