Danny Harley has had a pretty big year with his one-man band project The Kite String Tangle.
There have been festival appearances, both at home and abroad, a song in the top 20 of Triple J’s iconic Hottest 100 annual music poll and a sold-out tour to mark the release of his debut EP, which wrapped up this week with two shows in the Spiegeltent at the Brisbane Festival.
The Brisbane Festival show on Wednesday highlighted many of the reasons The Kite String Tangle (TKST) has been such a successful project for Harley, a Brisbane local. Alone on stage for the majority of the set, TKST used a combination of live drum triggers, keyboards and vocoders along with his immediately recognisable soulful vocals to bring his laptop creations to life in a live setting.
Two songs featured, for the first time this tour, live drums and a string quartet. This created a nice contrast to the purely electronic material, and considering it was the his first performance with the instrumentalists, the mix was seamless. Another track, Stone Cold, featured a guest vocalist Tiana Khasi, which again brought some nice variation to proceedings.
Some of the biggest applause of the night came from a live sax solo towards the end of the set, but otherwise it was all one man and his machines.
While comparisons can be made to other Australian musicians such as Flume and Chet Faker currently riding the wave of popularity around the genre often described as chillwave, TKST brings a little more introspection and self-reflection to the table. It might be dance music – but it’s a slow dance and the music and lyrics deal with themes of heartbreak and impermanence.
This is evident in the lyrics to one of the stand out singles from Harley debut EP and a crowd favourite from last night’s show, Arcadia. Given the Chance was another highlight, where side-chained pads along with deep bass and a sparse hypnotic beat left plenty of room for Harley’s soulful vocals to shine.
TKST manages to make lamenting slow jams still sound blissful, like dealing with the loss of love by dancing alone on a perfect empty beach. The combination of bare-your-soul vocals and downtempo electronica is a winning one.
There’s generally enough room for TKST to explore a lot of musical territory but my one criticism is that the set as a whole felt a little one-paced. It never really shifts gears, and while some tracks give a nod to house music genres made popular by acts such as Disclosure, they never quite get the crowd really moving.
Equally, it felt like there was an opportunity to bring some of the darker, slower numbers to a place where there was even more space and room for them to breathe.
Overall, it’s the kind of music where you dance with your hands in your pockets. The night never moved beyond enthusiastic head-nodding from most of the crowd. Which isn’t to say the audience wasn’t engaged and attentive throughout – TKST is a local boy who has really carved out a name for himself through obvious talent and a strong work ethic. The Brisbane crowd showed a lot of appreciation for one of their own.
Harley’s banter between songs also helped create a sense of intimacy and familiarity with his hometown crowd. Towards the end of the set technical difficulties forced a short break before the last song. Harley’s remark that “this is why I have two laptops running, to stop this from happening” was met with someone from the crowd yelling out, “get three”.
Harley’s immediate retort, “Yeah, your shout”, suggested he is a man who is very comfortable on stage.
Well he should be too. A one-man band is never the easiest act to pull off, especially hidden behind an array of computers and synthesisers, but TKST has transitioned his bedroom productions to the live stage with great accomplishment.
His vocals were pitch-perfect the whole night, the lighting show was seamlessly integrated into the downbeat form of dance music he has made his own, and if all this has come off the back of a single EP release, Harley’s tangled kite looks all set to fly high.