Lydia AinsworthHarvest Sun @ 81 Renshaw 12/9/19
Sinking beneath the industrial fizz of Oneohtrix Point Never’s Age Of, we grab a table seat and await Canadian composer LYDIA AINSWORTH. Daniel Lopatin’s garbled soundtrack provides a fitting apocalyptic prologue as much of tonight’s set draws from Ainsworth’s third LP, Phantom Forest – an album that revealed itself to her “as a play taking place in Mother Nature’s vanishing home”.
Ainsworth soon appears onstage in a red lace dress embroidered with crescent moons. There’s a look of the Italian renaissance to her, perhaps unsurprising considering she finds such inspiration in the allegorical artwork of Botticelli. Backed by a cellist and a drummer (who triggers pads and the backing tracks), the glissando of an arpeggiator fades to the intro of Tell Me I Exist. Although numbers this evening are a little thin on the ground, those in attendance seem suitably charmed from the off.
“Look what I’ve become. Prove that I’m still here, prove that I’m enough,” pleads Ainsworth with a pained expression over the simmering sub-bass of a chorus, which reflects her unease surrounding selfie culture. The glam extravagance of Diamonds Cutting Diamonds is followed by the Hundred Waters elegance of Edge Of The Throne. The lone cello outro, dramatics and lithe gesturing of Give It Back To You, recall Vulnicura-era Björk. Its unearthly programmed backing vocals making it a real standout.
Having penned and self-produced Phantom Forest herself (with the exception of two tracks that Kyle Dixon, co-composer of the Stranger Things soundtrack, contributed to), live Ainsworth’s vision is undimmed and impressive. At their most seductive, her verdant soundscapes are a complex, welcoming wilderness of sine and sawtooth waves. Occasionally, however, Ainsworth’s set formula of sweeping electronica can cause the listener to drift, as it risks becoming a little garden-variety.
This said, Ainsworth manages to drive the performance with her striking soprano voice, working effortlessly between operatic climbs and R&B trills, echoing Kate Bush. Concluding with the vocodered, black witch vocals of encore number, Kiss The Future, for the first night of the tour and her Liverpool debut Ainsworth’s lavish art-pop dream is a reverie we’d quite happily slip under again – provided the world hasn’t completely fallen in on itself before then.