Rich Mix – 1st June
On a warm June evening, the post-work journey from Waterloo to Shoreditch was best approached on foot, a stroll along the South Bank, across the Thames, ducking through the City to the old East End, stopping at the top of Brick Lane for a pint so expensive that the barman’s semi-apologetic “Welcome to Shoreditch” belied extortion even by the area’s steep standards. I subsequently arrived at Rich Mix a little too early, as did many of those waiting for The Heliocentrics while the soundsystem failed to do full justice to DJ Floating Points’ funkily esoteric selections.
When the band did wander on stage it was to a backdrop of kaleidoscopic visuals, a big-screen one-dimensional lava lamp that was the foil for a group keeping its head down, visually at least. The Heliocentrics’ early instrumentals were insouciant psych-jazz grooves that compelled the crowd to a mass outbreak of nodding as if a room of appreciative pigeons. It was the appearance of Barbora Patkova, clad in low-cut top, astral tattoos and Ascot fascinator atop a blonde bob that silenced any remaining chatterers, her powerful vocal orbiting the low-slung bassline and crescendoing Kosmiche of ‘Made of the Sun’.
There followed a set of adept psychedelia, a miasma of swirling trance drawn from European space rock, North African funk and South Asian ragas, the six musicians consisting of a supple rhythm section decorated with many and sometimes unidentifiable instruments being bowed, blown, plucked and struck. Patkova provided both visual and aural outlet, conducting the crowd and lending a deep-lung soulful charge to highlights such as ‘Oh Brother’ and ‘The Wake’, sometimes serving as seventh instrumentalist with wails and shrieks and some songs delivered in, presumably, her native Slovak.
On these, and the likes of ‘Dawn Chorus’’s instrumental drone-jazz, it was as if Heliocentrics were trying to soundtrack your dimension shift back to a stoned late-Sixties utopia of infinite possibility, were it not for the contemporary clutches of cold forces like Trump, terrorism and Theresa denying you that particular visa. For this was not a night to be distracted; the band’s hypnotic repetitions demanded full immersion to achieve maximum impact – perhaps a bit much to expect over an hour’s set in a sold-out venue where the sound never quite filled the room. But although transportation from our troubled realities remained a touch beyond even The Heliocentrics’ capabilities this evening, their expansive cosmic improvs certainly warped at the perimeters.