Twitch: Anthony Naples & Pariah
Saturday 29th August 2015 – QUBSU, Belfast
A week is a long time in politics, so the old adage runs; yet in the hopefully less cut-throat world of UK and Irish dance music, the same sentiment could right now apply to a number of local fans, who will possibly still be feeling the effects of Saturday’s Shine Classics Night. Even some of the most memorable sets or performances in electronic music can be tricky to recall, but it’s well worth casting our minds back to Belfast’s most recent Twitch showing, only a week before last Saturday’s milestone event. That particular Saturday night saw the arrival of London–based Arthur Cayzer, more commonly recognised under his live-DJ and production moniker Pariah, alongside American Anthony Naples, to deliver their eclectic and genre-expanding takes on house and techno in front of the now almost nine-years-running Twitch faithful. And deliver the goods they certainly did – though, I should quickly mention that this isn’t the first time either of the two have played Belfast. As local electronic music fans might remember, Naples and Pariah were both booked in by Ackright to play the Menagerie Bar in February and May of last year.
Also, as an NB before diving into the performance itself, it might be useful to outline the different backgrounds, as well as the respective tastes and musical trajectories, of these two lads. Pariah has continued to rise through the ranks of UK dance music (since early releases on R&S which caused him to be lumped under the then-umbrella-term of dubstep, somewhat confusingly), going on to put out a succession of solid releases in his own right and to form (with Blawan) one part of the formidable Karenn live act, whose experimental techno and ever-expanding table of kit and machines continues to discompose and enthral audiences across Europe. Naples, on the other hand, now New-York-based, showed how far he has progressed from his early house and techno output with the release of his album, Body Pill, earlier this year, which explodes any typecast genre constraints in the way it blends and weaves all sorts of electronic music strands and influences into its 29-minute-long tapestry.
That album definitely wouldn’t be a bad primer for where Naples currently stands with his musical direction and, with Pariah having spent much of his recent time touring the Karenn project, it was always going to be interesting to see what the still-young but very accomplished pair would throw up together. The reason the two ended up playing alongside each other, in fact, appeared to have been down to not much more than circumstance as well as some shrewd last-minute booking recommendations. Reportedly, Naples had been initially supposed to come in as support for Dutch DJ maestro Martyn; but the Martyn booking fell through, which prompted an agent’s suggestion of booking Pariah as a kind of replacement. Obviously, the switch, as well as having the back-to-back set-up in place of a Martyn show supported by Naples, completely changed the complexion of the event, which was now looking much harder to pin down in terms of where it might go or depart from the usual staple of Twitch offerings.
Perhaps not the most natural pairing I would’ve initially put together in my head, the two certainly played off each other extremely well, at the very least in terms of stylistic marriage and break-up. With Naples’ more vocal-led, ranging house sections separating and working off his counterpart’s sometimes punishing techno sequences, the two were really able to turn up the pressure more or less willingly and exploit the feverous atmosphere Twitch crowds are now well-known for creating. This was a relief as back-to-back performances are notorious for their patchy, hit-and-miss nature, and as I was listening to the quite techno-heavy warm-up and initial hour of the two’s set, it would be fair to say I had my misgivings about how it might pan out as a whole. Five hours of techno can be monolithic and intense for some at the best of times, but Naples’ selection – as well as how visibly he was getting into Cayzer’s various sections – really worked as an absorbing and at times mesmeric complement to an expertly sustained sequence of some really strong dance music.
And as far as tune selection went on the night, ‘strong’ would certainly be a choice adjective to use. An early techno pile-driver and pointed statement of intent came in the form of Anti-Corporate Music, from Levon Vincent’s self-titled LP released earlier this year, which set the tone for much of the head-scrambling fare that was to follow. Eric Duncan and Justin Vandervolgen’s Hard to Breathe could be held up to exemplify and sum up some of the manic, febrile tunes that the lads pulled out (clearly knowing their crowd well) at the many high points of the show. As you’d expect from a Pariah set, some interesting, often Germanic-influenced choices (on the techno side of things, at least) – including drum machine pop outfit Deutsche Bank and Call Super’s newest offering Meltintu – crept in there, which in the end was rounded off by Naples with the euphoric grooves of a ’90s house classic: the Choice remix of Janet Rushmore’s Joy.
Admittedly light on the two’s own tunes (so perhaps not the perfect show if that’s what you went looking for), the shared set really came into its own during the last ninety minutes or so of the evening. A thunderous horn section, as well as the surprise overlay of some instrumental harmonics over the music’s driving rhythms and percussion, showed off just some of the skill and versatility these two artists have in reserve for raising the bar at those vital points during a performance. Part of the duo’s magnetism seemed to come from a friendly and unforced mutual understanding, which perhaps isn’t surprising given the two are reported to be friends (though as we well know, friendship doesn’t necessarily lead to a direct onstage sync). What’s more, it was nice to see the two just having some fun with what they were doing – laughing, joking and throwing in a sped-up Lil John sample towards the end among other frivolities. Though generally playing to an impressive standard, the occasional trainwreck or missed beat from Naples at certain points when mixing didn’t really mar or detract much from the overall show.
Another strong night for the Twitch lads, then, who continue to go from strength to strength. As mentioned, Anthony Naples and Pariah wouldn’t have been the most obvious partnership in my mind prior to the announcement; but the two were an impressive live pairing, and they slotted in perfectly with the house and techno offerings that have made up the bread and butter of Twitch’s nights over the past couple of years. Make sure to keep eyes peeled for the publication of any ninth birthday event information (apparently to be released shortly)!