First published on 25 Jun 2012. Updated on 5 Jul 2012.
For most electronic artists, the view from the stage is a sea of heaving bodies. When solo artist Oliver Tank took to the Oxford Art Factory stage, the sight was far more surreal. A sold-out crowd standing to attention, transfixed by his chilled synth beats and instrumental melodies.
Tank keeps banter with the audience to a minimum, quickly introducing the tracks he describes as “heartfelt computer music” before diving straight in to play it. He gives the sense that even if an entire room wasn’t in the palm of his hand, he would continue to play, happily lost in his own music.
The aptly named Welcome Home Tour follows a string of UK performances to promote the Sydney artist’s debut EP Dreams, including sets at the Great Escape Festival, and Liverpool Sound City. And as joint winner of FBi Radio’s Inaugural Northern Lights Competition, Tank traveled to Iceland late last year to perform at the country's Airwaves Festival and collaborate on the Northern Lights EP with local artists and fellow winner Rainbow Chan. But it’s back home in Australia where Sydney boy Tank has been building most of his buzz, supporting fellow Aussie artists Active Child, Youth Lagoon, Bonobo and Megan Washington.
Armed with a minimum of tools – beat pads, synthesiser, guitar and vocals – Tank produces a whole sound that spreads across the room. Likened to James Blake, Boards of Canada and Mount Kimbie, his chillwave sound is one to relax and unravel to – eclectic blends of instruments undercut by soft electronic beats. He stands alone on stage, wearing his heart on his sleeve: “Music is like air to me and I just want to help you breathe” – the lyrics are almost a whisper against the dark orchestral accompaniment.
The one change of pace for the night came when Tank paid tribute to the artist he worships as “king”. Whether it was for the crowds benefit or his own, Tank broke out from his usual mellow demeanor to cover Snoop Dogg’s ‘Drop it Like it’s Hot’, adding his synthesized instrumental layers to make the famous song wholly his own.
Closing with the first track he ever wrote, ‘Dreams of Fish and Waterfalls’, a fast-paced, lyric-less track with a far stronger electronic rhythm than the remainder of the catalogue, it’s clear Tank has come a long way. The only complaint by the end of the night came from the artist himself, who sheepishly apologised to the crowd that he had to stop as he had run out of music.
Oliver Tank played the Oxford Art Factory Thu Jun 14