Baltic Fleet
The Garage, Liverpool Sound City
Saturday 4th May 2013

Liverpool’s Sound City Festival is one of those pan-location festival’s; the organisers utilise regular and irregular locations, some are traditional venues with all the benefits of such – some like The Garage are lacking in the basics, such as toilets; the row of overflowing Portaloo’s being testament to this; despite this I doubt there could of been a better suited location for Baltic Fleets’ Sound City appearance.

The clue was in the name, The Garage – by day this large industrial workspace could well have been a garage, the steel rafted ceiling supports, the exposed brick, the semi-transparent roofing panels loudly demonstrated you were stood within a mechanised environment and provided the perfect setting for the motorik sounds of Baltic Fleet. For those unaware Baltic Fleet is the chosen moniker of Widnes based Paul Fleming ex-keyboard player for Echo & The Bunnymen who since 2008 has been crafting his own Teutonic influenced beats, and in 2012 he released the magnificent ‘Towers’ album ( LTW review) which effortlessly made the LTW Top 50 Albums of 2012.

Centre stage barely visible within the sheets of dry ice is a rack of keyboards and other Korg branded items of electronic wizardry, as well as the obligatory white apple shaped glow emanating from a laptop; from the side step three musicians; Fleming takes position behind the Keyboards, to his left I was delighted to see a bass being plugged in, and to his right a lead guitar was being prepared; Fleming makes a polite introduction and then activates a beat generator before guiding the encouragingly large audience through tracks from ‘Towers’ and back to the band’s first release ‘Black Lounge’

Bearing in mind Baltic Fleet were originally a one man studio project, the decision to add live guitar, bass and additional percussion is a brave one; we should applaud Fleming for taking that path, as the tracks he performed tonight retained their ‘on record’ brooding cinematic feel – the reference points being Neu, Kraftwerk, but are also delivered with a real sense of menace, there is a sense of edginess even a hint of aggression…

Fleming I would suggest is well aware of the limitations that live keyboard driven sounds present certainly as a visual spectacle , this is partially combatted with the generous use of dry ice, colour wash lighting and careful positioning of rows of LED’s the shadows cast from the steel supports stride across the stage, to such an extent that you barely notice the lack of vocals – each track being built around a core melody, this coupled with precise arrangement makes for a wholly engaging and at the same time other worldly, even outer-body listening experience;

A studio project presented live shouldn’t really be this good, but Baltic Fleet have been able to present their music with real heart and soul – its gritty, its wider, no longer confined to the hum of a digitally clean MIDI environment and frankly the better for it.

A triumph.

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Phil Newall is 47, from The Wirral - he earns his living not writing about music nor playing music...though sorely wishes he could. He was fortunate enough to see many of the first generation punk bands when they played the U18's matinee shows at Eric's, Liverpool. As an attendee at Eric's he was exposed to punk rock, dub reggae, art rock, and all manner of weirdness; as a customer at Probe Records he was variously served and scowled at by Pete Wylie and Pete Burns - he has written for Record Collector, Whisperin & Hollerin, and Spiral Scratch and wanted to write a book detailing the Liverpool punk scene; however with 'Head-On' Julian Cope beat him to it...and frankly did a much better job.

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