Preview: Owen Pallett at Portland House

Disconcerting as it may be, there’s certainly something arresting, focus-intensifying about seeing an artist for what you know will be the last time. Whilst farewell tours can sometimes be trotted out, phoned in celebrations, when we heard that Owen Pallett would be no longer touring his stunning solo material, I was on call to tell as many people as possible to go, because he is not someone you want to miss.
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He revealed earlier in the year that he feels no need to tour after this year. “I had a wonderful moment last March when I realised that I didn’t want to play the violin onstage any more”.

“2015 is my last year of touring, it’s extremely liberating.”

Liberating for him, it should create a thoughtful cynosure for you – this is the last chance, buddy.

First time I saw him, was in the smaller but no less hallowed surroundings of The Gate in Roath, 6 summers ago. A relative newcomer to his work (I pretty much just got giddy at This Is the Dream of Win & Regine), it was an astounding set. Touring as ‘Final Fantasy’ then, until he had to change his name due to the same named game (so much competition between singular Violin looping artists and Japanese Role Playing Games), he captivated a open mouthed audience – most people sat cross-legged on the floor, watching his beautiful, intricate, dissonant, playful, singular, neo-classic songs cascade ideas upon us.

There can’t be many more contemporary artists of a similar ilk who’s heads seem to bubble up quite so many stunningly original ideas. That the gig in The Gate ended with him playing in the car park opposite to a hushed crowd in the dark did make it more special, but somehow his music has a force of it’s own that lifts gigs into the ‘special’ category, regardless of the undoubtedly beautiful, simple experience of hearing him there.

Since then, he’s made several stunning albums of even more experimental, maximalist orchestrated LPs. Maturing from the intensely personal work before, Heartland was narratively cryptic, with random, allusive and ellusive references to a character called ‘Lewis’ appearing beneath sparingly but beautifully embellished electronic sounds atop his orchestral ideas. Illustrious & grand, but it never stood still in your ears – it felt like a stunning, constantly changing intricate puzzle box that you might find in a Guillermo del Toro movie – never to be solved, always to enchant you.

Last years In Conflict is the zenith of his work so far though. Stripping away much of the grand visions or pretences, it is plaintively direct and more openly ‘confessional’ (I use apostrophes as it does feel a little too Red-Top describing any work of art as such). Whether through ‘The Passions’ hazily orchestrated violins complementing the simplistic, thoughtful pianos and directly told relationship tales or the rousing, almost rock-y, by turns cacophonic ‘Riverbed’, Pallet’s neo-classic ear and intense originality is set upon a kind of ‘pop’ with no mediating pose.

It is simply stunning. You really owe it to yourself to see this gig.

Tickets – http://www.portlandhousecardiff.com/tickets