Immersive, intense, and brazen
Big Black Delta - Live At Barfly, London

There exists in the world certain people who love a closeted and distant artist - the type that never seems quite with it on stage, the type to cancel gigs at the last minute or thinks it’s smart not to give a fuck in interviews, evading pertinent questions or circumnavigating poignant issues. They mistakenly think it adds a sense of mystery to their act, as if their (not so unique) ability to do something creative gives them license to think they’re immortal. They sometimes forget people work hard to earn the money to see live shows. All we ask is you act like you care.

Then there are musicians who fully immerse themselves in their art. When they discuss their work they like to share, respecting the principles of a heightened, collective knowledge. And when they perform it’s as if every ounce of their soul must be given over to the crowd. They may be composed like Beth Gibbons singing ‘Only You’, or manic and energetic like the Beastie Boys performing ‘So Watcha Want’ – but whatever the approach it’s always an achingly raw offering of their very being. It’s them saying, “Here, this is what I love, this is what it means to me. It hurts, but it feels good too. I want you to understand that.”

Big Black Delta, while by no means in the same league as the aforementioned artists (not yet at least), brings this to his live shows – and whether or not his music is to your taste, by the end you’ll probably wish it was. At Barfly in Camden there was a palpable sense of anticipation as the hundred or so patrons faced a stage replete with laptop, various controllers, and two drum kits. Yes, two drum kits. It’s part of the sound – and what a sound that is. Jonathan Bates, the brains behind BBD, likes his music to be immersive, intense, and brazen. Percussion takes centre stage, with solid kicks and crackling snares riding alongside his ethereal, spacey vocals, wandering pads and intricate melodies.

The influences are varied, from classic synth pop and new wave to wayward ambient laden with more traditional techno sensibilities – and with the lights on stage being fired off with every key change or drum hit, it creates a powerful spectacle. Bates writhes and dances while foraging for samples and sounds from his equipment. Latest single ‘IFUCKINGLOVEYOU’ holds no punches, while ‘Capsize’ is more of a tripped-out stomper – dreamy, with echoing claps, and raw snares – the ending apocalyptic. ‘Betamax’ is much more accessible, in the sense that he lets the vocals do most of the work. It’s the most obviously catchy of the set, but with the drums so effervescent it still carries so much weight and force.

Having already worked with White Sea, M83, and good friend Alessandro Cortini (Nine Inch Nails, SONOIO) and with ‘IFUCKINGLOVEYOU’ having been given a recent refit courtesy of Detroit’s electronic doyen Jimmy Edgar there is a real sense that good things are coming Bates’ and BBD’s way. It’s a classic trope to add to the bottom of a review, but “watch this space.”

Words by Oliver Clasper
Photo by Andrew Attah
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