Erased Tapes is 10
2017 has seen London based Erased Tapes turn ten years old and the avant-garde record label founded by Robert Bath decided to celebrate this landmark in style.
As part of the festivities earlier this year, Erased Tapes opened their doors to the Erased Tapes Sound Gallery – a collaborative studio space in East London, open to the public on weekends (check out some of the gallery's sessions here). Continuing the celebrations over last weekend, the label presented a series of gigs at the Southbank Centre. So we headed down to check it all out.
We started off the evening in the Southbank’s Clore Ballroom, catching the tail end of the James Blake-like singer-songwriter Douglas Dare, before moving over to the Royal Festival Hall for Dawn of Midi. For those who don’t know, Dawn of Midi are a Brooklyn based trio made up of Aakaash Israni on bass, Qasim Naqv on drums and the pianist Amino Belyamani. The 50-minute set was rammed with songs from their most recent album Dysnomia (2015), and with seamless transitions between songs, their performance was more reminiscent of a DJ set than a gig. In fact, there was an overall electronic quality to proceedings which made the show all the more captivating.
The mesmeric rhythms were propelled by a pulsating bass with the drums and piano playing off of this central driving force. The sharp hits of Naqv on drums helped to add some rhythmic complexity, while Belyamani’s piano stabs were perhaps most interesting of all, playing the keys with his right-hand whilst dampening the piano’s strings with his left. The melody was kept sparse and there was an almost drone-like feel to the set as the trio created an intense tension throughout. Dawn of Midi straddles a peculiar but stimulating intersection between jazz and minimal, electronic and acoustic. One can get that from listening to their records, but seeing it live added to the experience in a quietly spectacular way - it’s unsurprising that Radiohead picked them out as openers for two of their sold-out New York concerts last year.
Next up in the Royal Festival Hall were Kiasmos – a more dance orientated twosome (Ólafur Arnalds & Janus Rasmussen) hailing from Iceland and the Faroe Islands – who treated us to a live electronic set of multi-layered techno. A slowish start saw singer and Erased Tapes new signing Högni join the duo for a piano-led track before Arnalds turned to the crowd and exclaimed: “Now let’s turn the Royal Festival Hall into a rave”. The audience duly obliged. With practically everyone on their feet, a sizeable majority rushed to the front to show their appreciation for Kiasmos’ chest rattling bass and multi layered electronic soundscapes, hypnotised by the otherworldly visuals projected behind the duo.
These guys knew how to work up a party, expertly teasing out massive crescendos from their extended breakdowns, so when those techno beats hit almost everyone was ready and willing to move their feet. The crowd were clearly enthralled and while clapping along to the beat may have disturbed this chin-stroker, there was no doubt that people’s enthusiasm was infectious and warranted by Kiasmos’ virtuoso performance.
With everyone now in the raving mood, it was back downstairs for UK producer, Rival Consoles to finish out the night with more techno. Promising a DJ set, it was more controllers and laptop (a live Ableton set) rather than turntables. However when the tunes are bumping as hard as they were, no one cares what equipment is being used and by the looks of the dancing crowd, a great night was had by all – day trippers and hardcore fans alike.
To those who are wedded to putting things in boxes, Erased Tapes could be thought of as a home for modern classical, ambient and electronic music. However, such pigeon holing rarely does anything but simplify to the point of reduction. As one might note from their extensive roster (from Nils Frahm to Lubomyr Melnyk), and as this weekend has proved, this is a label that can, should and indeed, does boast of its genre-defying eclecticism. There really is something for everyone in their back catalogue. Here’s to another 10 years!