8th March | O2 Academy
Photos: Rob Perham
At the end of 2018, Maribou State released their second album, Kingdoms, drawing inspiration from a colourful palette of sounds during their global travels when on tour in places like South Africa, Morocco and India. It is hardly surprising they have a sold-out show in a place like Bristol. Their signature mixture of world music and slinky electronic soul appeals to a discerning city audience. The question is if they can recreate the magic from their past journeys and bring the same feverish joy to a packed-out O2 Academy.
They typically use chopped-up soul samples to drive their biggest hits forward. Take the ecstatic stutter of ‘Feel Good,’ that brings with it a montage filled with floating leaves, blooming flowers and train tracks. It’s the kind of thing that could look pretentious with the wrong soundtrack, but they pull it off perfectly. They encapsulate the ‘gap year’ experience better than any other artist, reliving a vibrant plethora of enchanting moments when performing on stage.
Riffing on lyric-less songs like ‘Home’ and ‘Wallflower’ could seem self-indulgent, but the group make their sound organic and wholesomely effortless when on stage, bringing with it a spectacular light show that could rival the extravagance of a Muse stage (albeit on a smaller scale). While many artists perform collaborations solo or have the features pre-recorded, the electronic duo are lucky to have a rotating door of special guests at their disposal. Vocalists like Holly Walker and North Downs add an extra layer to their spirited backing tracks.
It is when frequent collaborator Holly Walker enters the stage that the floor really starts to shake. As good as their sentimental instrumental tracks can be, adding her honey-coated vocal to the mix makes songs like ‘Steal’ and ‘Glasshouses’ endlessly more appealing. It is amazing how even the most chilled-out cuts create the biggest audience response, such as the Holly Walker-assisted ‘Midas’ where she taunts, “Do you know this one?” as the crowd lets out a mass cheer in the opening bars.
There are certain points when the show has the air of a DJ set, especially during ‘Rituals’, and that isn’t meant to sound reductive. It is more the way they make the type of alternative electronica that delivers like a shot of dopamine, encouraging the introspective dancing usually reserved for festivals.
Yet every time Walker skips or dances back onstage, whoops and whistles fill the room. She makes for an entertaining stage presence who relishes engaging with the crowd, something that, with their multitude of instruments, the men behind the music cannot do during the performance.
Finale, ‘Turnmills’ served as a tribute to the former London warehouse nightclub which was demolished in 2008 to give way to offices. It was an upbeat ode to the venue that shaped many raves over a decade ago. A lot of artists require between-song chatter to build a sense of the added vibe from the fans and to create a better repertoire. Maribou State prove this isn’t always the most necessary aspect of a performance, showing us that their music speaks volumes.
See the video for Kingdom (feat. North Downs) here: