Photo by Sorrel Higgins
It is fitting that one of GoGo Penguin’s songs is titled ‘Transient State’, as, during their Barbican performance on the 10th of February, the band manages to transcend all perceived musical possibilities. Of course, this is a broad statement, and a slight exaggeration; GoGo Penguin does not transcend musical possibilities so much as embrace the outer limits of its reaches. They experiment with abstract rhythms, Philip Glass-esque minimalist loops, and effect pedals used on instruments which one wouldn’t typically expect to find going through an effects chain. This all culminates into a package that feels like Radiohead, Coltrane, Stravinsky, and Kamasi Washington had a musical lovechild which was then given the flare of British jazz.
Though GoGo Penguin are an exceptional act when listened to on their recordings, live they are an entirely different beast. Surrounded by strobing lights, it feels like their music has ascended from a different, otherworldly planet; as though they have traveled down to Earth to grace us with their music for just one moment in time before they must relinquish their hold on our consciousness. It is an understatement to say that GoGo Penguin had the entire audience entranced.
With Nick Blacka on bass, Chris Illingworth on piano, and Jon Scott on drums, GoGo Penguin is a band full of expert musicians who have not only mastered their craft but have mastered the art of playing together. There was not a single point when the three band members seemed off, and just as one member seemed to be playing the best, another would quickly shine through. Each member knew exactly what their instrument’s place in the mix was and took to their role intuitively and expertly, never getting in the way of their fellow bandmates while still musically weaving between them like a game of blitz chess. It’s difficult to describe a group that is as tight and performs as well as GoGo Penguin at the Barbican, as every way to do so feels weighted by metaphors and clichés. How does one even begin to describe music which feels so otherworldly, so innovative, and so rare? What is easy to say though, is that after they performed their song ‘One Percent’, GoGo Penguin deserved the standing ovation they received. And, after their encore with ‘Protest’, GoGo Penguin most definitely deserved the second round of standing ovations which they then received.
To see other events and shows on offer at the Barbican, make sure to visit their website.
Edited by Talia Andrea, Deputy Music Editor