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Live Review: Free Love/Kaputt/Maranta @ Summerhall, Edinburgh, 02/08/19


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Euphoric electronica duo Maranta and rip-roaring sextet Kaputt joined the utopian francophone titans of analogue synthesis Free Love in opening the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Flanked by four “vessels” of “NRG”, the pair played a set that spanned their brief discography and also featured some new, unreleased material.

Image by Alice Gray

The best gigs make one feel part of something bigger and result in a loss of ego where the people around you are stripped of their foreignness, become less bodies to avoid and more souls in common communion. By the flag-waving finale of Free Love’s frantic acid house climax glimpsed intermittently through furious strobe lighting, it was clear that this Summerhall set had joined these illustrious ranks.

Edinburgh has a reputation for being more reserved versus the more populous, traditionally working-class Glasgow. At first, there is a little hesitancy from the crowd as Paradise Palms signee Maranta takes to the stage. As the arpeggiated synth loops and drum lines build, however, there is a chain reaction of sideways glances and nods of approval and the collective decision is made to advance and dance.

Right on time, Kaputt’s six band members take their positions – a line-up comprised of two guitarists, a bassist, a saxophonist, drummer and percussionist. With such a full stage it would be easy to sound chaotic, but the group are remarkably coordinated, retaining their angular punch and passing riffs between them. Though complex and rhythmically engaging, Kaputt does tend to stay on one high-intensity level, never straying very far from this unresolved edginess and it becomes a tad tiresome after a while. Audience interaction here is also quite minimal, aside from the band’s complaint about the heat. It’s also difficult to find a direct musical or even philosophical connection between Kaputt and Free Love, where Maranta makes so much sense as an opening act.

Breaking the fourth wall is not something Free Love does. This is partly because it’s never there in the first place and partly because, no matter how seemingly ostentatious, everything they do is carried out with a sincerity that refuses to permit ironic detachment.

Free Love doesn’t consider what they do a performance. The preferred word is “ceremony”. This is reflected in how the audience or, participants, are involved. After the first few songs, Suzi Rodden, one half of the duo, breaks out from behind the altar of Korgs, Moogs and Casios and strides into the crowd, parting a sea of grinning devotees and singing lines while making piercing direct eye contact with its composite parts. To speak of highlights seems crass in a show that evolves so fluidly between tracks, gathering momentum from blissful mid-tempo jams towards early rave-inspired interludes. Perhaps though, this could be said of Rodden’s encounter during her deliberate promenade around the room with a woman so obviously her mother, enjoying every second of it.  

Last year’s Luxury Hits EP made up the bulk of the setlist, with songs like ‘Synchronicity’, ‘How Do You Feel’ and the total banger ‘Pushing Too Hard’ eliciting an enthusiastic reception. These favourites, alongside the strident ‘If You Want Me Now’ from Fruit Juice during which roses were flung, devoured and spat out in a puff of petals in refreshingly none too subtle symbolism, were organically augmented by new passages and additions. The artistic direction was also enhanced by the presence of four “vessels” who, dressed in togas, crowned in laurel and coated in body paint, performed deadpan, stylised choreography and halfway through raised colossal flags emblazoned with Free Love’s evocative insignia.

The sheer energy that built up in the room by the final song’s ecstatic increase in tempo populates the stage so that the concert is cut off in a frenzy of collective joy. Free Love are not goaded into an encore; they had achieved a goal and delivered their most involved and ambitious show to date.

Lead image courtesy of Alice Gray

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