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Evian Christ – Live @ Oval Space

| On 23, Mar 2014

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Friday 21st March, London

Evian Christ is on a roll. Since the former bedroom producer dropped his highly addictive mixtape Kings And Them in 2012, via Tri Angle (arguably the most interesting label of the past three years), Christ has quickly become the UK’s premier instrumental hip hop producer; being picked by Kanye West from relative obscurity to produce a cut – ‘I’m In It‘ – for 2013’s Yeezus obviously accelerated this. Tonight is the second of his so called ‘Trance Parties’ and doubles up as an EP launch for his the excellently abrasive Waterfall; four tracks of bass-driven, industrial hip hop.

It’s amazing just how much his live performances (and interest in his live performances) have progressed. I first saw him last year, twice within one week for what ended up being two very different shows – the first was a trap heavy laptop set supporting Cashmere Cat at the Village Underground, and the second was a brilliant showcase of his experimental sounds at The Barbican supporting Nicolas Jaar. Tonight, however, he is headlining, and headlining at the massive East London institution Oval Space. Mirroring Christ’s own taste, tonight’s personally curated lineup is eclectic; so eclectic, in fact, that it’s kind of odd. Actually, it’s just the inclusion of one rapping fish out of water that jars, but more on him later.

It’s been a while since I last visited Oval Space and man have they spruced it up. The last time was for Bonobo’s mammoth DJ set and the place was so bare that it almost felt like I was raving in a village hall. Now there are raised platforms surrounding the dance floor, improved lighting and a swish looking bar. It truly is an impressive space – something between a large club and a trendy warehouse.

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The first three DJs – Powell, rising star SOPHIE and MSSINGNO – all put in decent warm up sets, even if due to the early set times and half empty venue the atmosphere is lacking. Up next is the debut collaborative performance of UK techno legends Miles Whittaker and Andy Scott – aka Millie & Andrea – who have been working an album, Drop The Vowels, together. In a recent interview, ?Scott? admitted that they hadn’t had a chance to rehearse playing together, but that the improv element of their set would make it exciting. Perhaps as a result, the early part of their 45 minutes of stage time is a little all of the place, with house-laced techno suffering from a lack of bass (to be fair, this is mainly the fault of an initial poorness of the sound system, which is quickly rectified). However, the second half of their set is a wicked mix of dubby bass music and erratic hip hop, which is much more pleasing to the increasing amount of Evian Christ fans filling the venue, especially the Machinedrum-esque material.

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So, now for that aforementioned fish outta water…US rapper-producer Travi$ Scott, tonight’s supposed headliner, who arrives to the stage late and is regrettably plagued with dodgy sound, just doesn’t go down that well – probably because none of the attending ravers were really expecting proper live, extremely American sounding hip hop. It’s a bit of shame to be honest, as I was personally looking forward to seeing this Kanye West / GOOD Music affiliate (which is why Christ, a fellow affiliate, included him on the bill). Scott’s brand of trap-heavy, RnB sprinkled rap music is better than most US hip hop artists – his Owl Pharaoh mixtape, which makes up the majority of tonight’s set, features interesting, self-produced beats alongside the high profile collaborations. In a commendable attempt to kickstart some crowd movement, Scott at one point successfully manages to get the audience to split, leaving a sizeable pathway from the front to the back of the floor, which the rapper jumps down into and prowls through. Obvious highlight is the massive single ‘Upper Echelon‘, which Scott and his entourage end the set with – a true banger, even if the crowd’s sporadic flutter of applause implied otherwise.

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Evian Christ has no problems winning over the audience – he has the crowd eating out of the palm of his band from the moment that first beats drops. Strangely only allowing himself 45 minutes, he wastes no time in firing out his Waterfall EP material, which sounds even more evil in a live environment. The twisted bass and industrial chaos hits hard in an latter day Amon Tobin sort of way. Naturally there are plenty of contemporary hip hop elements, including well known samples etc, but it is Christ’s original productions that resound most impressively with the elated audience. He is without doubt the UK’s brightest instrumental hip hop spark, worthy of being spoken about in the same breath as LA’s Brainfeeder crowd, TNGHT et al.

Lil Silva and Oscillate Wildly finish of the evening with enough substance to keep the punters interested, particularly the former, who nicely mixes up instrumental RnB, bass-driven house and UK funky. But it is Evian Christ and his short, sharp set that sticks in the mind. Amazing.

Clive Paris Rozario