‘BIG SCREENS AND GOOD SPEAKERS ARE RECOMMENDED’ was the all-caps advice that Bicep posted to social media ahead of their second global stream on Friday night. The show was filmed at London’s world-famous Saatchi Gallery after a three-month stint of rewrites on their Number Two album ‘Isles’, and it doesn’t take long to see why the Irish dance duo – aka Andrew Ferguson and Matthew McBriar – want this audio-visual performance to be experienced in the most fitting way possible.
Lockdown has proved that it can be difficult for dance music to translate well across a screen – as acts attempt to recreate the energy of a rave for people watching on a laptop, there’s always danger of the result feeling flat and joyless. That’s certainly not the case for this 90-minute gig (plus an opening DJ set of house, acid and disco pumpers from their Feel My Bicep label signee Hammer). Instead, Bicep’s intricate and emotive club soundscapes transcend the realms of physicality.
Created with close collaborators Black Box Echo, it’s clear a lot of thought has gone into the stream’s visual aesthetic. Before we’re even transported to the gallery space, there’s immediate VHS-style nostalgia thanks to neon lines that spell out BICEP LIVE as their synonymous logo rotates centre screen. With the anticipation built, two shadows appear, both bodies lit in infrared as they stand in front of a mountain of electronic equipment.
While the gallery’s white walls present a blank canvas, flashes of glitchy technicolour blocks and illusionist imagery soon get the blood racing. It’s been filmed to ensure every possible camera angle and screen dimension is utilised; close-ups of hands twiddling synth pads has never looked so compelling.
The use of colour adds to the character of their gradually building electronic monuments, too. During ‘Atlas’, the screen flashes to black in time with the heartbeat-like drum, before the kaleidoscopic creature that adorns the ‘Isles’ artwork wraps itself twists across its human inhabitants.
Just when you think it couldn’t get any more technically impressive, fan favourite ‘Opal’ comes with a shape-shifting double-take visual that’s made up of the Bicep boys manipulating their equipment in real time while the pumping intensity of closing track ‘Aura’ is matched by strobes that flash eerily across the gallery’s hallway and up its staircase.
The whole performance is not just extremely innovative and boundary-pushing: it’s also the closest thing we’ve experienced to a proper rave throughout a year of lockdown. If Bicep carry this detailed level of artistry through to their live shows this September, the events will be nothing short of game-changing for the electronic music world.