Being in the enviable position of having worked at St John at Hackney Church before, I was somewhat more accustomed than most to one of the most magnificent music spaces in London. No matter how many times you approach the grade II listed building it’s got the power to leave you a little bit breathless. Imagine the feeling then, knowing that a night with Koreless and Jacques Greene was forthcoming.
Ever since Koreless took the reductionist approach in developing his sound after breakout tracks MTI and 4D, his work has been crying out for a venue like St Johns to house it. The sweeping synth melodies and rhythmic samples, caught up in the swirling mist that concealed his head-down silhouette, conjured up an all-enveloping atmosphere that was a bit unexpected for a support slot. The euphoric finale of Sun was so anthemic we could’ve left straight after and still gone to bed happy. Of course it would have been madness to pack up then, given who was to follow.
Not content to ease the crowd into his set, Greene launched straight into it and the echoes of the church played tricks with the senses as a flood of sound rushed into our ears. Different layers of his compositions stuck out as they bounced off the bare, damp-stained walls; be it a staccato vocal sample, shimmering synth line or off-beat drum kick. For anyone at St John’s still reminiscing over Greene’s crossover hit 2011, Another Girl, this setting made for the perfect introduction to his new material. For those already convinced by the Canadian’s talents this took the appreciation to a new level.
In such a monumental setting, it was easy for things to become quite impersonal, but a series of deliberate and spontaneous touches saw an end to that. By moving the staging forward more than usual and using the balcony seating to full effect, Black Atlantic did well to close the voluminous space of the church. Downstairs, the crowd were so tightly packed their dancing became a sea of swaying, nodding heads. Upstairs, the pews and walkways full of people offered the most impressive view of the space and the fullest appreciation of the carefully tuned acoustics. Then there were the unexpected moments of interaction between audience and artist; the most photogenic was fortunately captured below, as a desperate fan on her friend’s shoulders was rewarded by the outstretched arm of a appreciative Greene.
Another moment of surprise came from the last-minute addition to the bill of How To Dress Well, whose fleeting London tour coincided with the evening. Even though his cameo was expected on the night, his arrival on stage imitating an MC led some to think (myself included) that an unwelcome guest was disrupting the show. After the initial (perhaps unnecessary) gunshot impressions, it didn’t take long for Tom Krell to get into his stride, playfully interweaving around Greene’s productions. It was a collaboration not without hiccups but there was a nice unplanned feel to it that contrasted well with Greene’s faultless display. HTDW’s most recent effort, Repeat Pleasures, has suggested his career is heading from underground soul crooner to a fresh new hope for the Top 40. His fleeting live collaboration with Greene suggests they could both be heading there together.
We were half hoping Greene to finish off with Another Girl, if only to hear how his seminal track transferred to the space at St John Church. The fact he didn’t was a sensible move though. This was the grandest of stages to showcase the new direction of his latest work and to look back at past successes would’ve only undermined that. On leaving the venue, not one word of disappointment was heard about the tracks omission; an envious position for any producer to be in and a real sign of just how unanimously successful the evening was.
Black Atlantic’s next party is hosting the first Mister Sunday outside Brooklyn, this weekend at Oval Space. Limited tickets still available here. Photo credit: Teddy Fitzhugh.