Mercury KX launch night, Omeara, 20 February 2017. Featuring Lambert, Solomon Grey and Sebastian Plano
Written by Ben Hogwood
The launch of a new record label is a rare thing indeed, especially when powered, as Mercury KX is, by a major company such as Universal.
So it was that the planets aligned with Mercury on a Monday night in South London. The Omeara club was the setting for the launch of a label which is set to become home for artists where classical and electronic music can meet and do business without any constraints. A bit like this website, we hope!
Inevitably people want to put a name on this form of music, and ‘post-classical’ was the term chosen during a spirited discussion between journalist Sean Adams and the label’s new acts Solomon Grey and Ólafur Arnalds. Yet the conclusion of the artists was that they wanted to avoid genre labels, enjoying the music for what it is.
Given the new signings for Mercury KX, that was easy. Firstly we enjoyed Lambert, a German duo adorned in tall and rather imposing Sardinian masks. Their stage dress heightened the dramatic impact already created by the rumbling of piano and percussion. The piano was opened up so we could see the workings and appreciate the mottled effect of the hammers, dampened in the quieter music and perfectly twinned with the blue light. When the music got faster, though, the percussive drive was irresistible.
Arnalds, whose distinctive music underpins each of the three series of Broadchurch, then gave interesting insights into his studio and methods of composition, ahead of the return of the drama on ITV next week. The confines of TV work can be stimulating for a composer, he said, a theme endorsed by label mates Solomon Grey. The duo have recently completed a score for the BBC drama The Last Post, due in the autumn. Their music uses field recordings and, in the brief episode we heard, has an appealing and almost psychedelic brightness in keeping with the video below.
Finally Sebastian Plano teamed up with the 12 Ensemble for a string-drenched meditation lasting around 20 minutes, led alternately by his soaring, song like cello playing and graceful piano. Plano had an appealing manner onstage, letting his music do the talking but allowing his cello to sing right at the top of its range, enjoying the beautiful harmonic progressions he had formed.
There was a real buzz around the club, and Mercury KX will no doubt be pleased at the reaction to their new artists and music. They are definitely on to something, for classical and electronic music are enjoying their collision course at the moment. Certainly the likes of Max Richter, Arnalds and Nils Frahm, to give just a few obvious examples, are writing emotive music of lasting beauty. The only potential downside is that a reliance on slow harmonies and the use of strings and piano will be brought forward at the expense of more distinctive melodies and rhythms.
It will be interesting to see if Mercury KX allow for these possibilities. They have banked some fine music already, and the label looks set to touch hearts and minds with its musical explorations in the coming years.