Reviewer: Peter Jacobs
Drift is a Manchester-based collaborative collective bringing together Test Card, VAM and Meraki Collective that brings together local artists working in music, movement, performance, spoken word and digital art (mostly) to create opportunities to create and present multi-disciplinary mixed-genre events in a variety of platforms. Drift is several tranches Manchester’s underground arts scene getting organised and making its presence felt. Drift represents shifting movement; not a lack of direction.
Drift’s last event in June was in a cavernous pop-up space in the Great Northern Warehouse: one of those retail units that never actually morphed into a shop. That they are now working in collaboration with The Lowry (as part of their innovative digital strand) looks like a successful rush to the top. But it seems to be more just the latest stop on the Drift journey.
Helped by the fact that the Lyric Theatre is dark on this night, what Drift does manage to do is scruff The Lowry up a bit, in a good way. The core of the audience is very much the Drift community of contributors, friends and followers. This, with general admission PWYD ticketing and a DJ set-up in the Pier 7 bar, goes some way to making the Quays Theatre feel like the usual welcoming Drift event as much as ‘another’ event at The Lowry. Manchester’s arts scene has temporarily set up camp in the generally corporate public spaces of The Lowry. It’s Drift with a great stage and Lowry tech.
Drift presents four sets in two halves. First up is Jade Parker, who delivers four sizeable slices of crystalline electronic pop music that is built on crunchy layers of beats that start unexpectedly but quickly slot into satisfying and slightly-unexpected rhythms; this is slathered with pleasingly off-kilter electronics and topped with further layers of processed vocals and Parker’s own live voice, which is sweet and clear and full of promise. The songs are lyrically fragmentary and build on layers of repetition rather than following a formula but the effect is sparky, commercial and hugely likeable.
By contrast Vital Signs are a duo who deliver live poverty and movement. The lyrical element considers the nagging thoughts that persist at night and keep sleep at bay and have a pleasing circular dimension, augmented by plain cotton screens where the repeated words and phrases accumulate in pen. The movement is choreographed with detail but the performance is one that would perhaps work better sited than staged.
After a short informal break the show resumes with Howl Creative, working with Brink Dance Company and visual artist LSMarley. The piece is called DUSK and is an immense electronic soundscape packed with explosive rhythms, unexpected fleeting melody and howling electronics. It is a beautiful noise. Brink appear in the form of one dancer who intelligently captures and expresses the music to a high-quality backdrop of club scenes and other dancers from Brink on the large screen. Splashes of colour blend with the movement and film and the glorious sonic landscape to create a consistently special performance.
The final piece rather removes the performance element, as the stage is nude of people and equipment for the first time. The performance is a digital one – launching a new project, React -with live visuals from Test Card’s Sean Clarke which respond directly to analogue signals from Dubonautik’s music. This piece is slower to get started. The music is less immediately accessible and it takes a while for the visuals to progress beyond simple geometrics, but it does in time evolve into a reasonably spectacular landscape of bright colour, visual interference and shuddering geometry. Whether it would be enhanced by a silhouetted figure or two standing at a laptop is up for debate.
Based on only one previous encounter, being at The Lowry seems to have pushed Drift to a more formal – more organised – format but that makes for an enjoyable audience experience. The quality of the music and digital performances especially are compelling and strongly delivered, and this is a great stage to have access to. But this was still recognisably Drift. Relaxed, friendly, experimental, and yet rewardingly-accomplished in creative delivery. And they even managed to get people to hang out after in the usually sterile Pier 8 bar.
It wouldn’t be a good thing if this became what Drift ‘does’, because finding new spaces and platforms and audiences – and new collaborations – is vitally important is a city with such a strong grassroots creative scene but inconsistent opportunities and venues, but based on this evening Drift would be a welcome regular event at The Lowry.
Reviewed on 23 October 2018 | Image: Annie Feng