Having Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs round to play in the basement of a, yes, archeology (and art) museum was a whimsical move, following the young local lad's generally light-hearted attitude to his craft. It was this edition of the Ashmolean Late Nights events, this one curated by London's Notting Hill Arts Club, that caught my eye particularly. Not only because the combination of artist and setting promised to make me feel like a kid again, but also because having been putting out quality EPs for the last three years, Orlando Higginbottom's star is rising at the moment, having just been signed to a major label—Polydor—and preparing to release his first album early next year.
The basement, with a capacity of only a few hundred people, was where we descended to upon entry. It was a long, low ceilinged room with Roman pillars, the odd bit of artwork on the walls and cooly psychedelic light projections. The stage was situated along the long side of the room, and there was never more than a few metres between it and the audience; it was an intimate and charming setting, as expected. The boxy geometry and hard walls did, however, affect the sound. The bass rumbles and kick power hogged more of the energy spectrum than I'd have liked, to the detriment of the mid and upper range, which is where it all happens ("it," in his case, being the melody).
This meant that the night was weighted a bit too heavily towards the pumping of a dance floor, which was something of a disappointment, considering the rather special setup. Playing live on a mix of software (laptop, APC40 and presumably Ableton) and hardware (including Korg and Novation synths), he used his kit widely, but there was more attention paid to the visual aspect of the performance than to his instrumental ability. More improvisation and a bit of technical showing off would have been nice, although this is a minor gripe.
Wearing an Aztec patterned azure blue costume with a collared shirt and blow up Stegasaurus fins, TEED barely smiled once. But as he spent his time reeling off glitter cannons, and being flanked by dancing girls who changed costume at least twice, serious wasn't really a word that really seemed relevant. The girls' costumes included Indian headdresses, blue wigs and sparkly outfits with pointy bits in all the Madonna-approved places, and although their routine was hardly professionally choreographed (it seemed more likely that they were his friends who came up with it themselves), it was all in tune with a vibe that valued enjoyment over cleanness of production.
Despite the less than ideal sound, his tracks did come through pretty well, joined into a continuous set and sometimes sped up for 'floor effect. Already released favourites were there, including the Nokia-licensed "Garden" and the pretty, neo-African lumber of "Waulking Song," mixed in with plenty from his upcoming album, like swaggering house stomper "Stronger" and "Household Goods," which alternates wistful analogue bloops with a huge, but equally wistful, sidechain-pumped sawtooth bassline. On paper, you could say that a wide range of genres were covered. More to the point, though, any drum pattern was equally viable as a support for his vocals—they were songs as much as they were dance tracks—and for his fruity melodic instrumentation that borrowed features from various ethnic origins and periods of dance music history and turned them to playful ends.