“This is a show about journeys” Martin Green said “All of you had a journey to get here and will have one to get home”. Martin Green’s ‘Flit’ project explores the themes or travel, migration and home. After seeing his Grandmother to ask her for stories he could tell his children. Green then decided to talk to other people about why they’ve moved, and migrated, around the world. He then set about writing sounds based on the stories he was told/themes he picked up on in then. He surrounded himself with a band, and vocalists, to die for featuring Adam Holmes, Aidan Moffat (Arab Strap), Becky Unthank (The Unthanks), Dominic Aitchinson (Mogwai) and Adrian Utley (Portishead). As if this wasn’t enough, the animations throughout the list set come curiosity of whiterobot.
“This is something happens naturally. It’s universal, and it’s why there’s quite a strong focus on birds in the animations that illustrate the music. Birds are the perennial migrants, it’s what they do”. It’s the animations that hammer home the messages, and themes, of the songs. While we were seated waiting for the show to start, and after we’d witnessed Unthanks perform accapella with a banjo in the bar, screens of brown paper filled the stage, obscuring instruments. On these animated birds were projected. These birds were made of brown paper, through folds and rips. As the musicians took the stage these screen were rolled up. At various points throughout performance the screens were pulled out again, only to have them ripped in two at pivotal moments of the song. The symbiotic nature of music and animation gives off the feeling that both are connected, and playing off each other, rather than the animation solely being created as an after-thought.
After the band took to the stage, minus Moffat who wasn’t present, and launched into their first song, The Suitcase. After Moffat’s monologue a Post-Rock sound scape was constructed. Interspersing this was Unthanks beautiful vocals, that have to he heard to be believed, along with Holmes’ lyrical timbre set the scene perfectly. After this Green introduced the themes and objectives of the project with the timing and deliver of a seasoned stand up. “This is a show about journeys” Martin Green said “All of you had a journey to get here and will have one to get home”. This helped to hammer home that concept that even though it was a short journey, it is a journey none the less. Then he went on to play a clip of his Grandmother, and others, discussing their journey’s before launching into their next song.
The highlight of the set, apart from seeing this collection of musicians live on stage and witnessing the exquisite and thought provoking animations, was when they performed ‘Laws of Motion’. This is the stand out track on the album and live it was taken to another level. Extended from the four minute album version, it slowly meandered and skewed its way along. Aitchison’s bass drones took centre stage and raised it to another on another level. However it was when Holmes and Unthanks vocals joined, and soared, that we realised we were witnessing something special indeed. This, in itself, was worth the entrance fee alone!
What the live performance does that the album doesn’t is give everything context. When Aidan Moffat is delivering his monologue on ‘Flit’s’ opening track it has a sinister tone. What is he talking about? Animals? People? Whereas during the performance Green gives a brief introduction about the migration of animals and mentions the American Carrier Pigeon, then Moffat’s vocals kicked in. It’s little touches like that that helps the live performance flourish and move on to another level.
When the show finished and we realised it was all over, it was time for contemplation. In 90 minutes Green and co had told complex stories and tried to explain that migration isn’t a crime but, is in fact, a very natural part of human evolution. However there was a pang that not everything was tidied up. Throughout the performance Green had played snippets of conversations with various people. Some of these didn’t require an epilogue but others did. One of the voices was telling a story about how they had lived in a tent, the location was never stated, but we never found out what happened when they moved to where living in a tent wasn’t an option. Another character said that he had moved from Ghana, but there wasn’t any explanation as to why. Instead of have a handful of different voices it might have been better, thematically speaking, to have focused on two characters and told their complete story, rather than bits that suited the music. This is really nit-picking, but a conclusion, even if it was just a monologue, as Green had given throughout the performance, would have tied everything together neatly. Overall though the performance showcased why Green is lauded by his peers, and critics, alike and is allowed assemble one of the greatest super-groups in recent times to play some elegantly piercing Post-Rock while discussing uncomfortable issues of the day.