REVIEW: Floating Points Brings Dazzling 11-Piece Orchestra Performance to BEMF
Photos by Phillip Prolo
Brooklyn Electronic Music Festival took place last weekend in Brooklyn. Amongst the club gigs and DJ slots was Floating Points’ live performance with an eleven-piece orchestra. Four string players, three horn players, a guitarist, a bassist, a drummer and the man himself, Sam Shepherd, on sequencers and samplers. Drawing heavily from the new material off the recent full-length Elaenia along with some older Floating Points material redesigned for the live band.
Elaenia is receiving stellar reviews thanks to its blend of classical and jazz elements with the production of an electronic music wizard. At seven songs and 42 minutes, the instrumental compositions have plenty of time to take you on a journey, and this converted really well in the live atmosphere. While live bands and electronic music can be hit or miss, this fell very much on the ‘hit’ side of the spectrum. It was spectacular.
The Music Hall of Williamsburg was full, but with plenty of room to enjoy oneself. The crowd was quiet and respectful, relatively speaking for a raucous city, allowing the music to breathe properly. The band, under Shepherd’s lead, would build minimal, ambient synth riffs into all-encompassing jazz assaults, most notably during the “Silhouettes (I, II, III) where the saxophone player (anyone know his name?) laid down a Kamasi Washington-level build-up on the epic melody.
Floating Points said in a recent interview with Pitchfork, “I’ve since learned that, if you want to take people with you, you can’t just go straight in and play crazy saxophone-and-drum music—you’ve got to create a bed of confidence and then start testing and poking a bit,” and this is truly a testament to the live show. While saxophone-and-drum music was present at one point – and wild it was – the maestro was careful about easing the audience into that insanity. The rollercoaster ride of a performance was on par with the better jazz musicians you’ll ever see, and with the added element of electronic production, it made the show absolutely cutting-edge.
Following the hour-long performance, the crowd demanded more, but just as Elaenia ends abruptly without resolve, so did the show. They could have delivered a second set and no one in the room would have exited; instead they left us wanting more. Everyone lingered in the venue, chatting about the show they just witnessed, and the consensus was that they knocked it out of the park. Everyone who witnessed Floating Points was a little better off after the show than they were before. For me, it was another reminder that great music, especially forward-thinking electronica, is always on the way.