Leo Liccini’s impressive Ariel 2.0 series has showcased a number of international musicians, producers and artists whose performative voices are being shaped by computers and online life, bringing the likes of Karen Gwyer, Cakes da Killa, and Hanne Lippard to the Bold Tendencies auditorium space of a multi-storey car park in Peckham, South East London. The programme’s final outing features Felicita, whose hi-tech noise music has been performed at club nights and art galleries alike, and Tami Tamaki, a Berlin-based singer and producer who writes dance pop songs with a candid take on sexuality at the forefront.
Although originally hailing from Sweden, Tami Tamaki has made a small impact in Berlin’s underground electronic scene and found fans online thanks to the inclusion of their song ‘I Never Loved This Hard This Fast Before’ in the soundtrack to Ester Martin Bergsmark’s 2014 queer romance Something Must Break. Tamaki’s set (a first for a UK audience) flitted between bright, colourful pop songs, sad-eyed robo-ballads, and big drop bangers. Lyrically the sorts of clichés you hear in top 40 radio pop are taken (“I never loved this hard this fast before / But then again I never loved a boy like you before”) and then flipped with a frank and often funny depiction of sex and sexuality (“You make my heart beat, steady as a clock / Your words touches deep, and so does your cock”). Tamaki adjusts and queers a vocal delivery through heavy processing, but the music is still rooted in conventional melodic pop song-craft and it’s precisely because it’s more visceral than intellectual that it works so well. Two songs into the set, Tamaki suggests that they’re not used to playing to a seated audience, and when the crowd gets up, they stay up.
Having attended South London artist Felicita’s WISH event at London’s ICA theatre earlier this year, I was on familiar ground with what to expect, even if his music is formally less straightforward than Tami Tamaki’s. Felicita presents his show like a typical live act: the artist is on-stage, they play their instrument (in this case, a laptop), and the audience faces them. But throughout the set, Felicita subtly circumvents established gig rituals and takes things closer to performance art, especially as he controls his production software through his smartphone. At times, the only light in the room comes from the glowing Apple logo on the back of his computer, and it’s impossible to know what’s going on behind that screen: Felicita could be in the middle of an elaborate Ableton live session, or he could just be hitting the space bar on iTunes.
One thing that is recognisably ‘live’ is the contribution of vocalist Chlo, who opens the set by directing an inane stream of consciousness into the microphone. Slowly, this spoken word is drowned out by Felicita’s bright, colourful take on noise music, clearing the way for a din of chattering voices, glitches, and loud digital synth blasts (with hints of garish pop songs surfacing occasionally above the clamour). Chlo’s contribution starts as something non-musical, but she returns at the end of the set and blasts out a song a capella that proves there is a formal talent that is previously, deliberately left unheard. At the end of the performance, the music cuts out and the crowd stands in silence, uncertain whether to clap, wait for the music to kick back in, or leave. **