Self-described as a platform ‘dedicated to documenting independent live music as it happens’, Pitchfork’s first instalment of their live-stream Listening Club series offered just that. Reviews Editor Jeremy Larson, and Senior Editor Jill Mapes introduced us — two heads floating in small circles, atop a funky backdrop of merging blobs of colour. In turn, they introduced sneak peeks of new tracks from around the globe, presenting them with pre-scripted one-liners. Fontaines D.C., Little Simz, and Blake Mills were among the recommended, with Mapes likening Buscabulla’s newest track, El Aprieto, to a car engine sputtering through Puerto Rican streets.
Pitchfork’s Editor-in-Chief Puja Patel carried us into the second portion of the episode. This began with a Q&A session with featured artist of the week, Mike Hadreas (or, Perfume Genius). The artist choice was based upon the release of Hadreas’ newest album Set My Heart on Fire Immediately, which premiered on the same date as the live-stream. Patel asked Hadreas how he celebrated the LP completion, what inspired the album cover, and whether or not he felt as though it had even really happened. He answered distractedly, potentially reflecting the touch of pretension which frames his music, or perhaps just self-conscious.
The Vulnerable Technological Interview
The interview itself was both interesting and engaging, no mean feat for a pilot. However, certain points did feel stilted. The image jarred occasionally, and conversation was, at times, awkwardly overlapped due to lags in WiFi. It was a live, virtual interview and, as Jill Mapes said, it was the worst it was going to be. These factors trigger the conversation to the impact on interviews when based within an artist’s private space. We saw Hadreas’ living room walls, the pet wandering in and out of frame, the artwork taped above AC controls. When asked if he had any overt sources of inspiration for his album, Hadreas looked around the room — eyes straying onto items out of shot. The space was a space where intrusion seems very rare, manifesting itself into the awkwardness that was outlining his frame.
The Chaotic Hypnotism
After a melodic instrumental of Dillard and Clark’s Polly, Hadreas performed four songs, two from his newest album. Only himself and his pianist were in shot during this performance, and the cat tangled itself in microphone cables as they played. During the first track, Whole Life, Hadreas swayed almost erratically with the music. He ducked his head and shoulders forward as though trying to get underneath the covers of it. In the interview, Hadreas had described his sound as a ‘chaotic’ mish-mash of genres, this apparent during his set. The keyboard sounds switched from light synth, to woodwind, to strings, to classical piano, and his voice covered multiple octaves. There was a lilting hypnotism to it, as though a spotlight was immersing into the two artists. They looked at each other almost intimately as they performed.
The end of the episode was marked by a fade to black. I was left sitting in my living room feeling wet-through, as though I’d been drenched in sound. In simpler terms: Listening Club was an immersive live-stream episode that I will undoubtedly continue to tune into.
Words by Emily Moscrop
Originally published at https://www.indiependent.co.uk on May 16, 2020.