Maribou State live at Festsaal Kreuzberg, 15th March 2019

Maribou State live is a totally different ball game to Maribou State on record.

There. I said it. To a reviewer who grew up in the same cosy wastelands of rural South England as this quiet, hardworking pair of producers, watching them morph into one of the best live bands I’ve seen this year was really quite something.

Maribou State proper (made up of Chris Davids and Liam Ivory) first started making tunes together as teens. Even as sixteen-year-olds in Hertfordshire, UK, they were remixing for the likes of Hadouken (it’s on Wikipedia so it must be true). Tonight, onstage for their sold-out show at Berlin’s Festsaal Kreuzberg, it’s not hard to see why Maribou State have eclipsed so many others from their generation of British electronic artists from the early 2010s.

It’s not hard to see why Maribou State have eclipsed so many others from their generation of British electronic artists.

For makers of such atmostpheric electronica, the venue is a perfect fit (though many will be gutted to have missed out on tickets). To translate their sound into a live format, Davids and Ivory double their numbers, adding live drums, guitars and keys. Instead of the two-dudes-at-a-desk set-up, this is band in every sense.

This European tour is all about Kingdoms in Colour, the second full-length released by the duo in September last year. So it’s here that we get started, album opener ‘Beginner’s Luck’ launching us into proceedings. The live kit immediately starts earning its money, the mix a lot heavier than on the record and the stronger for it. It’s also not long before the missing piece of the puzzle is introduced.

Holly Walker, Maribou State’s ever-present collaborator since the early EPs, makes the four-piece a five.

Two songs in, Holly Walker, Maribou State’s ever-present collaborator since the early EPs, makes the four-piece a five. The South London singer has been the go-to vocalist for some of their stand-out tracks across both albums, and it’s sultry single ‘Nervous Tics’ that’s chosen for her first contribution tonight. Throughout the set, Walker is present for almost all of the best moments. The force of her voice, occasionally obscured by effects on the records, is electrifying, and is more than enough to fill the room. Collective goosebumps are almost tangible.

Tracks from 2015’s debut, Portraits, are also given airtime, Walker hanging on for classics ‘Steal’ and later, probably the night’s finest moment in ‘Midas’. Even when the vocals for other songs are programmed (see ‘Kingdom’, sadly without an appearance from North Downs), the intensity in the room remains. ‘Feel Good’ (created with fellow indieBerlin favourites Khruangbin) is showcased here too, the moody riff and joyful breakdown adding a new element to contrast the slower earlier pace. The encore is rattled off and with that, the best band-that’s-not-really-a-band you’ll see this year take their exit.

You can catch Maribou State on tour across Europe throughout the summer.

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