Oval Space – 22nd May
Howling are all too aware of the challenge they face in translating their music in different environments and to different audiences, and as they take to the stage at 11pm at Oval Space that challenge feels all the more pertinent. By this time, there’s a buzz amongst the audience that wait in anticipation, balancing closely on the edge of a nightclub atmosphere.
Arriving on stage against the backdrop of subtle deep house, that could easily have been a DJ Sprinkles Midtown rework, it sets the stage for a representation of Howling that for the most part favours both the intricacy and intimacy of their work. With Howling, there’s a sense that no stone is left unturned, each tiny detail of their work considered and legitimised. The added element of an analogue light show is just an extension of that trait, one that illuminates the performance from behind, never allowing a spotlight to place onus on any one thing above the performance as a whole.
But drawing the audience as a whole into that world that Howling have created so meticulously proves difficult, and the intimacy of the record are lost somewhat with the more poignant, delicate moments often passing without seemingly making an impression. Whilst ringing bass notes undoubtedly contribute at times, the tantalising layering of Howling’s performance sometimes feel bypassed by what seems like a constant desire for euphoria on the part of the audience. It’s when the kick drum takes hold that you feel the environment is at its most encompassing.
That’s not to detract from the moments of true beauty which are on offer tonight, aided in no small part by the heart-on-his-sleeve delivery of Ry X, but in their quest to merge their two spheres you feel like Howling are still finding the perfect match. Whilst new material is reworked impressively, most notably the controlled chaos of the ‘Signs’ breakdown, Howling’s hypnotism is still best exacted in the form of their ever-stunning eponymous debut single, and whilst its beauty will remain intact for years to come, it only makes the desire for live show that mesmerises throughout even stronger.