Date: 16 September
Venue: City Screen Basement, York
Rating: ***

Ambient music is not one of genres that you would ever tip to go ‘big’. Bands like Boards of Canada and Stars of the Lid don’t often find themselves filling arenas or headlining Dronefest ’10. Those artists who do seem to find huge success, such as Aphex Twin and Moby, seem to have done so by branching out from their Brian Eno influenced beginnings to experimenting with a more techno or pop sound. One other thing that has made them continually interesting is their videography.

In confines of the Basement, it is admittedly difficult to put on an animating visual show; albeit the perfect setting for any underground ambient band. Support act The Playdoe Band have managed to fit a lot of equipment between them on stage: DJs, a live drummer and lots of synthesizers. What could possibly have been quite interesting ends up being a jamming session with a strange series of Windows screensavers (schools of fish at one point) projected on them.

Thankfully Italian headliners Port-Royal recognise that two guys hiding behind a laptop and synth doesn’t make a great show. In fact one member of the band, Sieva Diamantakos, is entirely responsible for the visual side of things, even posting a rather comprehesive “visual manifesto” on their MySpace page. They project video clips of grimy Metros, substations and at one point the rather unsettling message: “we are all dying”. They sound somewhere between Mogwai and M83, whilst neither achieving the postrock heights of the latter nor the shoegaze pop of the former. The few thrashing electronic tracks that are memorable are offset by background visuals of a man furiously shaking some percussion wood blocks by power-lines.

At times Port-Royal stray into too many ambient clichés, but they manage to experiment with their sound while remaining interesting to listen to.

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