In Review: Phaeleh live

Since breaking through a decade ago, Matt Preston aka Phaeleh has been putting out beautifully distinctive electronic music full of substance and melancholia. His numerous releases, with their sweeping melodies and varied time signatures, sit under the umbrellas of dubstep, garage, ambient and electronica, with hints of jungle and occasionally house. The man has certainly never been constrained by subgenres. Only right, then, to see if and how this eclecticism translates into a live set.

XOYO on a Thursday after work is a bit of a bizarre time to be in a club, but ‘XOYO Live‘ is a thing the Shoreditch venue has been doing for a while, and clearly successfully. With a crowd comprised of mostly men no doubt there for a bit of nostalgia looking back on their teenage heyday, when Phaeleh was helping to pioneer the early dubstep movement, plus a small dispersion of lads taking things a bit far after a big day at sixth form, it was an impressively (and uncomfortably) full house by 8.30pm for the opener – “Icarus”, the futuristic and genre-defying main track from Phaeleh’s latest album Lost Time (cue the video – worth a view).

Albeit the stillest crowd I’ve ever been in when in a club, XOYO’s exceptional sound system effectively carried the mish mash of tempos and spurts of melodic intensity that followed, and the backdrop of surreal programmed visuals was an appreciated addition. A garage re-work of the silky smooth “Feel You Fade” went down well, as did the loosely-dubstep and lovely “In The Twilight“, with a generous portion of delicate high female vocals running through – a familiar feature of much of Phaeleh’s back catalogue. The hint of jungle improv mid-way through the set almost elevated the energy levels of the sober and still (“I needed to use that drum machine that was sitting there”), but this was only momentary, as it wasn’t quite the time or the place.

Preston spoke into his microphone between most of the tracks after individual rounds of applause, thanking everyone and making light conversation ­– something he could only get away with playing to a crowd made up of longtime fans. As someone who values continuity and progression as essential to all electronic performances – live sets and DJ sets alike ­– the abrupt pauses between tracks and lack of mixing for me meant an opportunity was missed to create an immersive experience – the same kind you really do get when listening to a cinematic Phaeleh LP from start to finish. Instead of getting lost in the set as I’d hoped for, we were mere spectators of it.