Bristol’s ambitious Venn Festival came to the end of its fifth year in spectacular fashion with a showpiece evening at Thekla on Sunday 7/6/08.

Californian DJ/producer Flying Lotus, a.k.a. Steven Ellison, warmed the crowd up with a frenzied sequence of myriad beats – drum&bass, hip-hop, techno and more – and frequent lightning embellishments from a drum machine. His rapid synchronisation of different songs and effortless mixing skills were perhaps only outshone by the sheer joy he displayed at performing for a packed house in the underbelly of Bristol’s favourite maritime venue: a broad grin was present throughout the set, as heavy sheets of bass thundered out of Thekla’s formidable soundsystem. His new album Los Angeles is definitely one to look out for.

Given top billing by festival organisers, The Heliocentrics are famed for collaboration with groundbreaking producers DJ Shadow and Madlib, as well as legendary Ethiopian jazzman Mulatu Astatke. The nine-piece ensemble, spearheaded by the robotic precision of drummer Malcolm Catto, was suitably eclectic in its delivery of an unclassifiable concoction of jazz, hip-hop, funk, Afrobeat and avant-garde fusion – offset by a distinctly Portisheadesque tendency to explore new ways of melding diverse musical colours into rich soundscapes with an added element of free improvisation in the mix.

From mesmerising, hypnotic, trance-inducing grooves to upbeat, bouncy melodies and catchy riffs, the band traversed genre and mood in a way few other groups can pull off. The blend of such ingredients as electric violin, musical saw, baritone sax, electronic oddities and sultry, blues-infused vocal lines provided an unpredictable panorama of texture and tonality. A strong sense of collective chemistry is ever-present: it acts as the glue binding together this psychedelic labyrinth of musical tongues and dialects. Along with Catto’s immovable rhythmic foundation, it serves as the constant factor in an eternally shifting atmosphere of captivating audio illusions.

Venn Festival:
The Heliocentrics:
Flying Lotus:

Published @ Fly, 21/6/08 – click here for original.