Agar Agar at the Village Underground
In the fog of the Shoreditch underbelly lives the illustrious music venue the Village Underground, where for one-night London was graced by the techno-rave ingenuity of the French duo Agar Agar.
With backdrop like the Village Underground it’s hard not to see how the converted warehouse space provides such airy setting for a Tuesday night rave and light show. And it didn’t take long before the space became filled with the smell of expensive canned beer and second-hand berets from the trend-setters of East London.
Through ethereal smoke came Agar Agar’s support for the evening BEA1991, a Dutch solo artist armed with only her insane vocal chords and mix deck. With an energy that was both delicate and unrestrained she moved around the stage like a celestial presence with the desire to cause mischief. Sitting somewhere in between being reserved and a mess, Bea creates a balance of almost-holy vocal ranges with heavy drum tracks and synths that you’d only expect to hear from deep house. Her inspiration apparently comes from what she likes, simple as. Bea clearly as no desire to fit into any kind of box that listeners or even fellow artists want her too, and seemingly isn’t too bothered about whether you’ve heard of her or not. It’s clear that she makes music because she’s passionate about it not because she needs reiteration of her skill.
Having blown up after her first release in 2015, this “fame” was quite short lived for this Amsterdam gal. But don’t be blinded by concerns of fame because Bea isn’t. In an interview following her earlier releases she claimed that the popularity of music is ‘a bit like designer clothes, a hip restaurant or whatever… In the end we’re all sensitive to status – me too.’ She clearly knows that fame doesn’t last forever, but her music proves you can certainly fulfil your potential whether you’re in the limelight or not. Through music she presents herself exactly how she feels, a vulnerable and brave way to make tunes – but equally maybe the way it should be done? Candid breaks the strain right (in her words not mine)?
Moving around the stage like water Bea performed swaddled by warm lights and with a confidence in herself that can only be admired; playing tracks that dropped this year and oldies that some long-term fans, to her shock, were able to sing along to. Mashing together classical piano samples, chopped up trumpet clips and bassy rhythms Bea created an atmosphere of intrigue. Glued to her performance the crowd were engaged throughout, so much so Bea herself exclaimed that she was flattered she only saw one phone during the performance. Hypnotising and alluring Bea1991 is a real joy to watch and with a very limited social media presence she must be seen to be believed.
Slashing through the layer of softness laid by their stage predecessor came Agar Agar. With a weird name, inspired by the health food that you feed ants with (yes that weird), this French duo are made up of the extremely talented Clara Cappagli (check out her previous band Cannery Terror) and Armand Bultheel. Agar Agar is project for these very different musicians that explores the self, the future and the subconscious. With quite dissimilar musical backgrounds and having met in an art school in the French suburbs, it comes as no surprise that the music these two makes is unconventional. Cutting through expectations with a sharp blade, the combination of these two musicians sees them produce music that is both psychedelic and violent, managing to amalagmise rave melodies with the wildness of garage rock. They create conceptual pop that sounds like an 80s prediction of what the dystopian future sounds like. Or in other words, they wouldn’t go a miss on the Blade Runner soundtrack.
Inspired by a computer-generation, the band like to play around with sounds that come from hacking at video games and the desire for an expansion of consciousness. Their performance on Tuesday was nothing more than a reflection of how their music breaks the electro pop mould. As the band entered the stage with an essence of cool, the trendy Shoreditch crowd grew in anticipation to lap up the luscious acid basslines and effortless sythns that were to come. And with a setlist that was a combination of tracks from past EPs and singles mixed into tunes from their new album, their listeners could hardly be disappointed. Known for their boundless synths and effortlessly postmodernist lyricism they did not fail to deliver hits like ‘Lost Dog’ (a song about a hypothetical dog who is hypothetically lost and is hypothetically only semi-missed by its owner), ‘I’m That Guy’, ‘Fangs Out’, and ‘Prettiest Virgin’ (to name only a few) with beautiful vulgarity while being neatly in time.
Clearly feeling in their element, the band created a hypnotic trance with strobe after strobe and Clara’s ability to pull faces that extend beyond any usual facial expression than you can imagine. Some key moments to note came from their third party: a mysterious ‘Securite’ figure who wondered onto the stage and left some of their observers questioning who this robo-cop looking dude was. However, it didn’t take long for his purpose to become clear when he began busting moves that you could expect to be in an abundance in somewhere like the Berghain and used as a parody of masculinity in a track about biceps. Performing some personal faves ‘Lunatic Fight Jungle’ and ‘Cuidado, Peligro, Eclipse’ it didn’t take long for some of the (already) sweaty listeners long to join in with comedy rave jigs.
All together nonchalantly edgy and earnestly radical, the band performed in the same way they make music: uncompromising and reflective. The night itself seemed to be all about self-expression with no limitation. A chance to transcend into a visceral realm of self-identification and sit balance on the thin line that separates reality and imagination. This seems to me to be the only way to put on a show for a tour titled The Dog and The Future, Agar Agar’s debut Album.
Agar Agar newest video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=2&v=1a53IkJv4Go
Check Agar Agar out here: https://www.facebook.com/pg/agaragarmusic/photos/?ref=page_internal
Check Bea1991: https://bea1991.info/
Words by Aimee Williams-Maynard