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Live Review: Like Running Water

27 October 2017 | 12:06 pm | Kelly Herbison

"The collaborative efforts of Thompson, Zhen and Renner generate a sense of power and emotion."

Melbourne Recital Centre is drenched in cool hues for the debut of Ella Thompson's latest project, Like Running Water, where she takes the stage alongside fellow Melbourne-based artists Sui Zhen and Clio Renner, plus strings and a woodwind quartet.

Thompson's proficiency as a vocalist and multi-instrumentalist is evident across all her pursuits including alt-pop group Dorsal Fins, pop duo GL and her solo work. Thompson's extensive experience allows her to deconstruct musical components into dynamic forms of expression as demonstrated through Like Running Water. The performance pulls apart resonating sounds and reimagines them in reference to the binding imagery of liquid.

Thompson's vocals are given a new dimension thanks to Zhen and Renner, whose swelling synths wrap her vocals in an ethereal quality. The three women also fill the space with the cumulative force of their vocals, reaching moments of solidity in their harmonies and then stripping back to individual components once more. Thompson, Zhen and Renner's contemporary creation lifts the classical elements of the quartet up into new realms, infusing their sound with Thompson's distinct vision. The quartet offers a luxurious quality, drawing fervent moments of intensity.

The visual art curates a pastel-coloured palette, as Prue Stent and Honey Long convey scenes of the gentle interaction between skin and liquid. Stent and Long project lush scenes of soaked fabric draped over the female form from intimate angles with the fabric becoming taught against the body with the weight of water. The projection of often faceless figures conjures up an embryonic quality as the softness of skin and liquid throbs against pink lighting. The quartet leaves the stage midway through the show, allowing for the synthesisers to become more expansive. Zhen's background in electronic music ushers the performance in a new direction, as her command of rhythm is accompanied by her steady vocals.

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Thompson recognises this show is "best mates playing with best mates" and this sentiment is apparent in the lucid and relaxed environment they create. The collaborative efforts of Thompson, Zhen and Renner generate a sense of power and emotion as their talents combine for this captivating and multifaceted performance.