I mentioned The Presets’ impending performance at The Tivoli Theatre in conversation and my friend responded: “Two middle-aged guys pressing buttons, right?”
The set drew a sold-out crowd (27 June), many stubbornly guarding their space for movement.
‘Knuckles’ jagged musings welcomed the duo on stage, the starting song of 2018 record, ‘Hi Viz’; it slowly transitioned into fan-favourite ‘Talk Like That’, “Big start!” somebody shrieked – it was.
As per the song list of ‘Apocolypso’, ‘Eucalyptus’ came next, its experimental-sounding hues seemingly unfamiliar among fans. ‘Martini’, however, sparked immediate recognition, the track almost pop-like, black and white beat nicely juxtaposed with the prior lack thereof.
Back-to-back marches with ‘Ghosts’ from ‘Pacifica’, vocalist Julian Hamilton offerings hellos and welcomes; the audience pumped their fists with vigour for each “Huoh!”, belting out the chesty heave with force.
The ‘My People’ of 'Hi Viz' was surrendered surprisingly early, ‘Do What You Want’ the catalyst of a response so chaotic you would expect it only possible from a long-term release. Another newbie, ‘Downtown Shutdown’ became one of their bubbliest additions, major scaled instead of minor, similar sentiments to Pnau.
‘Tools Down’ was admittedly one I disregarded, and wrongly so, the house banger asserted itself as one to be recognised from the 2018 record. It blended beautifully with ‘Feel Alone’, soon mixed with the bopping synth riff of ‘Girl And The Sea’.
One of my all-time picks from The Presets’ epic discography, ‘This Boy’s In Love’ began acoustically, simple chords simmering on the keyboard beneath slower, emotion-drenched vocals.
Change of pace with choppy number ‘I Go Hard, I Go Home’, eventually shifting into hidden gem, ‘Youth In Trouble’. Although fans seemed slightly confused by the song choice, apprehensive as it built, I could barely contain my excitement for the drop – it was more climatic than anticipated.
Following with ‘My People’ proved set-list perfection, crowd primed from the previous, no motionless feet. Ten-years-old yet the track remains relevant, still a cut above the rest within the infinite pool of electronic music.
That was the undeniable peak, the set unfortunately falling, though The Presets made an admirable effort to maintain the hype. The fierce ‘Are You The One’ kept energy levels high, while ‘Together’ ventured back into an unpredictable territory of disjointed beats and nada standard structure.
‘Are You Here’ (featuring DMA’s) fell relatively flat, though the mood was revived with gritty dancefloor filler, ‘14U+14ME’. The duo closed with texture-riddled ballad, ‘Until The Dark’, resurfacing briefly to hammer out ‘Anywhere’ as an encore.
Besides the inevitable lull post ‘My People’ towards the end, their selection of songs was virtually faultless. It was an eclectic mix of old and new, balancing moods with moods, transitioning seamlessly, uncovering underdogs, then rewarding with the well-known.
Admittedly, The Presets didn’t skimp on showcasing their new record, though with one so strong and expertly produced, why should they? I’m stunned that after five years of radio silence, of tumbleweeds, the duo has re-emerged with an album so diverse and well-crafted it’s as if they never left the scene.
What’s more, they surfaced around 15 years ago, rising to fame during an era of vaguer electronics, less-charted waters. Not only have they successfully adapted to a fast-changing industry, they’ve admirably stayed in their own lane, (without being repetitive or safe) simply adding to the irreplaceable imprint they left on the genre more than a decade earlier.
When The Presets were originally described to me as ‘two middle-aged guys pressing buttons’, I was instantly defensive.
Though despite the technical incorrectness of the statement (live drums, live vocals, live keyboard), it can still be taken with a positive spin: if only ‘two middle-aged guys’ are making music of this calibre, whatever buttons they’re pressing must be the right ones.