Everything Everything brought their Manchester Central Library residency to a close last night (November 15) by debuting new music created in – and inspired by – the surroundings of the recently renovated Grade II-listed building.
The half-hour performance was the culmination of Chaos To Order, which saw the band curate an eclectic programme of events, and included sets from Oldham polymath Kiran Leonard and stand-up Josie Long, as well as interactive theatre from Dumblove Encounters and pop-up choreography courtesy of Company Chameleon.
During the week, in a glass-walled room on the ground floor, visitors could watch Everything Everything as they conceived the material. “It’s been more of a challenge than we expected,” bassist Jeremy Pritchard told NME. “We originally planned to spend only two hours a day writing, but we’ve ended up spending most of our time here. It’s an enormous amount of music. Half the battle is remembering it. It’s largely instrumental as well – we’re not relying on vocal cues.”
“I thought the library would have to put up with lots of complaints from regular users saying they can’t concentrate,” he continues. “But everybody’s got on board. Having spent a week here, it’s hard to imagine it without music now.”
At 8pm, the audience was directed into the library’s Shakespeare Hall, for a performance by Melodico, an eight-strong ensemble choir, before being led into the circular reading room, where US singer-songwriter Jesca Hoop played an acoustic set that included a specially-commissioned song inspired by the life of mathematician Alan Turing.
In the performance room at 8.45pm, Everything Everything’s headline set saw their music – largely delivered as an uninterrupted, sonically-mutating stream – accompanied by interpretive dancing from Company Chameleon on an adjacent stage. None of the new ‘tracks’ had official names, although they were referred to on the setlist under temporary titles such as ‘Caveman’ and ‘SMB’. Pritchard described the material as “sounding like [US experimental rockers] Tortoise. It’s quite jazzy. Some of it’s really reflective, some of it’s aggressive. It’s all quite urgent and itchy.”
Frontman Jonathan Higgs added: “It sounds like us, but without any of the normal pressures or constraints. It’s not simply verse-chorus. There are probably about 18 or 20 different sections of music sandwiched together in various ways.”
At the end, Higgs thanked the audience, commenting: “We hope it’s been as different an experience for you as it has for us.”
He added self-deprecatingly: “We thought we’d play some old songs as no-one knows what’s been going on for the last half hour,” before the band launched into the singles ‘Cough Cough’ and ‘Kemosabe’.
Originally, the quartet – completed by drummer Michael Spearman and guitarist Alex Robertshaw – did not intend to toss the crowd the sop of a familiar song. “But on the basis that some people have travelled from as far as Turkey to see us, we decided to do two old tracks,” said Pritchard. “Apart from a drunken covers set at Alex’s wedding, we haven’t played a show this year.”
Higgs said: “We played some old songs for a BBC 6Music session yesterday morning [November 14] and it had been so long, I had to Google my own lyrics while were being introduced.”
Although the performance was recorded, there are currently no future plans for the music – which Pritchard describes as “existing purely in that moment in time” – to be made available. No tracks from their forthcoming third album, the follow-up to 2010’s ‘Man Alive’ and 2013’s ‘Arc’ – were previewed during the evening, despite the fact the band are in the midst of working on it.
“It would have been self-serving and wrong to do that,” states Pritchard. “If you’re an artist in residence, you’re supposed to be writing in the library – that’s what we did. When those songs come out next year, we’re going to be living with them for two years – there’s no need to get them out of the box too soon.”
Everything Everything played: