Live Review: Polographia, Pluural, Colourwaves

30 November 2016 | 11:35 am | Matt O'Neill

"Energetic, unpredictable and boasted a surplus of grooves."

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Initially, it looked as if Colourwaves would be playing to an empty room. Minutes before he was scheduled to take the stage, the Sydney producer's prospective audience seemed comprised of less than five attendees. Fortunately, a small influx of latecomers bolstered his numbers. Unfortunately, Ryan Dodson's spaced-out electronica simply didn't do much to engender said audience's excitement, even as numbers continued to grow throughout the set. An undeniable talent, Dodson's sound makes a considerable impact upon immediately encountering it - swells of technicolour synths blended expertly with '90s IDM drum patterns and pristine new wave vocals - but sounds gradually less impressive with each airing. While dynamically varied, his songwriting lacks the focus to ensure his set doesn't deteriorate into a blur.

It could also simply be that his work is designed to be listened to in quiet isolation rather than observed in a live environment. Sydney two-piece Pluural have something of the opposite problem. Their performance tonight revealed a pair of musicians who have, to use the vernacular, mastered the art of rocking the party. Their blend of live and electronic instrumentation is seamless and their set — despite spanning multiple contrasting tempos — has the razor-sharp dynamism of a well-crafted DJ production. But, while their remixes of cuts like Mary J Blige's Family Affair and Brandy's I Wanna Be Down were fantastic, their originals didn't pack quite the same punch.

Headliners Polographia split the difference, albeit in an unusual way. With a greater focus on live instrumentation and a more sophisticated sense of groove, their performance tonight felt significantly more vibrant and engaging than either of their supports' - that energy only enhanced furthermore by the tendency for the two musicians to grow visibly more engaged with every new production aired. However, their reluctance to directly address the (by-then considerable) crowd or even cease between songs often gave the impression their preference is to be invisibly tucked in the corner, soundtracking the party rather than demanding its undivided attention.

That said, it's a minor complaint (made even more minor by the addition of guest vocalists for more song-driven material) - in the end, Polographia excelled. Their set was energetic, unpredictable and boasted a surplus of grooves so solid that they worked even when partially drowned out by crowd murmur. Even if they did want to just sit in the background and jam, they did a commendable job of it.

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