> Canaan Balsam + Pedro Vian & Daniele Mana at The Glad Café - Live Review  - SNACK: Music, film, arts and culture magazine for Scotland

Canaan Balsam + Pedro Vian & Daniele Mana at The Glad Café – Live Review 

We exist in a time where Artificial Intelligence (AI) will not overthrow us, but the threat of it doing so is paralysing for growing numbers of people. YouTube videos feature dead artists singing modern songs or duetting in collaborations you conjure up in an all-time wish list. This content peppers timelines, fills conversations and takes up valuable real estate that should belong to emerging talent.

We’re on the cusp of washing our hands of it, throwing the towel in and asking our browser to provide ten better and wittier metaphors to ensure everyone grasps the point that the machines are winning.

There’s always hope, though, and with the Canaan Balsam set at the Glad Café, there was a necessary reminder that we shouldn’t focus on people against the machine, for now, at least, it’s still humans with devices. 

As Canaan shook, throttled and rolled mixers and midis, you remember it’s all about inputs. Even when machines rise, their success or failure depends on the programmer getting the best from each device. Can AI do that? Yet? Is it even possible for machines to act in a way that’s second nature for human nature?

In football parlance, the best managers know when to put an arm around a player and when to boot their backside. At one moment, Canaan caressed and cajoled his gadgetry to create soothing landscapes that hushed the room; the next, the jabbing waves of feedback filled the space, creating a more unsettling environment, one that bristled with energy and gave the crowd something to ponder.

There are plenty of moments in Canaan’s music and sets where you can allow it to wash over you, zoning out to think of vital tasks or the simple pleasure of nothing. This mode doesn’t last long, what does? Yet, it’s unpredictable enough to draw you in every time.

And it’s not as though only digital devices bore the brunt of Canaan’s velvet glove over an iron fist approach. The mic stand was battled on his brief foray into lyrics, with opening lines about John Knox and Leith showcasing the Scottish spirit, which runs throughout the artist’s output.

As a representation of Canaan Balsam’s Eternity lies within or nowhere album, it was fitting, with added glitches and bursts to keep you gripped. It’s a landscape record that volleys between the background murmur and the soundtrack of our chaotic lives. Live, there was a bit more bite through the battle with the machine, still serving as both adversaries and allies.

AI will continue to grow stronger and do more, but will it shift through the moods as quickly as when propelled by an artist? It’s unlikely; the devices don’t have that same clamour for violence and control; machine will never kill machine, just as ape shall never kill ape.

The true potential of devices lies with artists such as Canaan, who’ll torture their machines with passion and vigour before later diligently packing away cables with care. 

The headline act of Catalonian producer Pedro Vian and Italian composer Daniele Mana had double the workforce, and Lord knows however many times the horsepower on stage, but it’s not a linear extrapolation in sound or volume. The duo crafted a dreamlike hour, peppering to life at times but mainly meandering with charm and good grace.

The table creaked with electronic wizardry, while the presence of a guitar would have lowered the blood pressure of indie musical purists looking for comfort in what they know. 

All in all, it was an evening of music to escape by, or to turn off to, which is the beauty of, and answer to, our increasing reliance on technology.

Image credit: Andy Reilly

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