What we are about to witness is either going to scale the heights of spine-tingling excellence, or else fall flat on its arse...

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The Big Chill Winter Festival - Day One: London Islington Union Chapel

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The Big Chill Winter Festival – Day One: London Islington Union Chapel

Tonight is the first instalment in a series of events in the capitol that runs right through till Sunday. This first night, however, sees The Big Chill returning to the venue where they held their first ever event. Fitting, really, to see them return to their roots at the end of a year that’s seen them host their most successful Enchanted Garden event ever, then a month later de-camping to Naxos with a couple of hundred like-minded folk for a week’s maximum chilling.

After all that, you would have thought that a four-day-long series of club nights and gigs might seem a tad pedestrian, but they’ve never been an organisation that could be accused of lacking in ambition. As such, the pitch-perfect acoustics are tonight treated to a combination of the choral and the electronic, culminating in Jedi Knights and Cosmos man Tom Middleton re-working two numbers from the seminal Global Communications album ‘76.14’. So not your usual chill-out fare then.

Experiments are always risky, and the select audience here tonight are fully aware that what they are about to witness is either going to scale the heights of spine-tingling excellence, or else fall flat on its arse. Thankfully, the moment the trademark ticking of ‘Ob Selon Mi Nos”s grandfather clock echoes through the rafters, it’s clear that we’re in for something special.

The original Global Communications compositions are, of course, incredible anyway, yet the hard work that’s gone into their adaptation spurs them on to previously unthinkable levels of grace and beauty. Perhaps demonstrating once and for all that electronic music is a timeless artform that can work with older musics might seem a bit worthy, but when it’s pulled off in as impressive a style as this, the argument is irrefutable. And if you can listen to the angelic, soaring chorus on the sublime ‘12.18’ in this setting and not be moved, you clearly have no soul.

John Hall