Live Review: Floating Points, Ben Fester

21 December 2015 | 12:38 pm | Tanya Bonnie Rae

"Every track just somehow felt a little bit below average."

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Eclectic local Sydney DJ Ben Fester acted as the support act for the night, kicking off his 90-minute set with old school disco vibes, rockin’ a black tee with a musical saxophone print. He spun a funky, uplifting set, mixing in a dash of tropical and jungle house tunes with some classic deep house tracks. Fester mainly stuck to really slow, minimal disco tracks, straying slightly from his previous deep, moody and edgy house sets among underground club nights.

Expectations might have admittedly been a little too high for the Manchester-based DJ, producer and college professor (yep, he has a degree in neuroscience too), Dr Floating Points aka Samuel Shephard. With a background in classical music, Shephard has noted musicians among the likes of Theo Parrish, Dorothy Ashby and Stravinsky as major influences in his upbringing and has been an accomplished pianist since he was 16 years old (he’s now 29).

Following Fester, Floating Points walked on stage 15 minutes late, looking modest and humble with his crates of endless vinyls (mostly 7"), and iconic poised disposition. Starting off with a really easy, gradual transition into his set, he played mostly erratic disco, funk and experimental jazz, spinning Ned Doheny’s 1978 To Prove My Love and Kaidi Tatham & Dego’s Got Me Puzzled (shortly after which a nearby fan stated matter-of-factly, “I’m so perplexed”, which in short, kind of summed up the vibe of the night).

For the first two hours of his set, we couldn’t help feeling like there was something missing — an underlying beat to carry the music, or just something strong enough to consistently bop to without feeling restless and distracted. But instead, there was none of that, and every track just somehow felt a little bit below average. Walking into the side room for 30 minutes and heading back in to see Floating Points felt like we’d never left — the music sounded exactly the same. Each song blended into one another with very little variation, and Shepherd refused to allow any one song to play out for more than a mere two minutes.

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The first two hours of Floating Points’ DJ set were a strikingly stark contrast to his debut album Elaenia, which served as a somewhat misleading introduction to his slow, erratic and nonsensical performance, with this reviewer’s night ending halfway into his four-hour-long set.