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A Magazine for Sheffield
Live / stage review

Manu Delago, Abbeydale Picture House, 26 September

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Manu Delago might be known as a percussionist, but after this show it's clear that it's in his role as composer that his ear is put to best use.

The way Delago's nine-person ensemble played together was mesmerising: nothing over-polished, just organically and comfortably in sync with each other, so much that it's hard to imagine they ever need to rehearse at all. They play like one organism, each with perfect awareness of the others' thoughts and movements.

This came through visually in their more performative moments. When, for example, the show began in pitch black, each of the nine wearing a headlamp, moving in perfect coordination to dizzying effect. It also came through in their impeccable sound, unified when they chose to be, individually distinguishable when it suited them.

raw and joyful

At times their sound was so cohesive that it was difficult to pick apart a singular instrument in the collective sound, at other times one would emerge on its own. A trombone like a rasping moan of an otherworldly animal in distress, a handpan tapping out a fluttering rhythm to evoke the tranquillity of Delago's childhood home in the Alps, the strings of a finger-plucked violin, raw and joyful.

The first portion of their set came off the new album Circadian, which aims to take the listener through the stages of REM sleep. They achieved their goal of conveying a visceral exploration of sleep, yet not a second of it left the audience remotely sleepy. It's not music to fall asleep to, it's music to be transfixed by, even more excited and riveted by each new composition than the one before.

Nearly every transition saw an audible gasp or groan of awe and pleasure go up in the room. Driving, powerful drum lines, chaotic percussive moments, screeching strings and wailing bassoons. The Picture House was only the second night of their tour, the first being in their home-town of Innsbruck, Austria. They've left themselves no room for improvement.

Alice Flanagan

Flying Donkey Events returns with Jim Ghedi + R. Loomes, 21 November at Merlin Theatre.

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