Review: Floating Points Charms With First Uk Orchestral Performance


A dim, blue haze illuminates the Islington Assembly Hall as shadows gather in this elegant old space. On a gusty Autumn evening in North London, a quiet sense of anticipation begins to grow amongst a receptive crowd of expectant attendees. 

The venue slowly fills, at the back of the room Kieran Hebden and Sam Shepard can be seen sharing a joke.  This is the first time that Floating Points will debut the live show in the UK for his new album, Elaenia: he will be accompanied by an eleven-piece orchestra, complete with choir. 

Moses Boyd opens the evening’s proceedings and a small crowd begins to move from the bar towards the stage. Faces begin to appear on the balcony as the lights become dimmer. Subtle ornate decor gives the space a touch of class and the atmosphere within the venue is reinforced by the echo of Moses Boyd’s jazz orchestration. His music oozes and pours from the speakers, it all feels very sophisticated indeed. 

It’s interesting to examine the relationship in demographic that exists between Floating Points and his fans. Over the last few years he has managed to draw the interest of an audience which far surpasses the reach of club music culture. Some of this is as a result of his prolific musical knowledge, but a lot of his success lies in the detail and craftsmanship behind each of his records. His recent album demonstrated this impeccably and it is clear by the range of clientele in attendance that as a musician he has taken that next step. 

At quarter past nine a rattle echoes through the sound system, it starts soft and rises to become crackled, harsh and loud. At this point Floating Points follows his orchestra on to the stage, they are fifteen minutes late. He humbly blends into the background as his musicians take their seats under the spotlights. 

A glorified Spirograph projects circles of light behind the musicians; it carves a never-ending pattern whilst abrupt, intermittent flashes illuminate the crowd. 

The hour which follows is a winding journey through cosmic-infused jazz.  Beautiful electronic blends roar and reverberate alongside saxophone solos, drum-fills rumble in and out seamlessly, amidst scattered vocals and low-end distortion. 

There are elements of sheer brilliance tonight; a prolonged drum solo intertwines fluidly alongside the blips and glitches of machines as members of the orchestra watch on noticeably impressed.  Shabaka Hutchings stands to applause as he blissfully serenades the audience with a stunning performance on the saxophone. 

The evening concludes and Sam Shepard stands shyly before encouragingly thanking everyone for attending. It’s a gracious moment and the connectivity between audience and stage has never been more visible. In such a large venue it is rare to find a moment of such personal affection, it emphasises the relationship which Floating Points is used to having with those who watch him play in clubs. Somehow the number of people watching becomes irrelevant, the concert ends, we leave with a feeling not dissimilar to that of after a night spent in a tiny basement.  

This was special. 

Listen to Floating Points on Soundcloud HERE.

Photography Courtesy of Dan Medhurst.