jedi dreams of being able

Final Fantasy, Meredith Music Festival, 13th December 2008

"[Antony Hegarty has] established himself as a purveyor of both constructed identity and heart-on-sleeve sincerity" (Joel Elliot on cokemachineglow)

The problem we face when it comes to Owen Pallett (for Final Fantasy live is just himself, a violin, keyboard, loop pedals and four or five amps to play said loops set up with the precision of roman columns behind him) is one of relating emotion through conceit and artifice. For our bleeding hearts want him to wear his own on his sleeve, to bare all rather than wrap it up. But the nature of his stage setup means that his performance is one of extreme concentration, Pallett plays with the reserve and detachment of a surgeon almost, as the orchestration of various song phrases and instruments (all evoked from just voice, violin, keyboard, itself quite amazing as he creates a miniature orchestra) overtakes any considerations of expression. The most wrenching manifestation of this was when he stopped on a pin, mid-song, to complain to the technicians about the audio onstage, in the middle of some beautiful, grand composition as if he'd just paused a video game.

But really this is just like his recordings - for all the sense in which Final Fantasy is adherent to that expectation us indie fans have for unmediated emotional sensitivity (come on, he plays the violin - meaningfulness guaranteed with string instruments) there is just as much in which this is wrapped up in fables and fallacies of Dungeons & Dragons (he said that He Poos Clouds was originally intended as "an eight-song cycle about the eight schools of magic in Dungeons & Dragons"), fictional characters (impotent businessmen), obscure metaphors (the world's tallest tower as a monument to the dead) and history-crossing scenes (his EP Spectrum, 14th Century contains the line "I've a temper as shiny as any bling!").

And in this obscurantism, Pallett is a true romantic, at least in the way I think of romanticism. Because far from the popular idea of romantics as conveyers of direct, inherently human feeling, they were actually elevators - always looking for the nicest conceit to raise the emotionaly mundane to the transcendent, even in love it almost becomes an intellectual game.

And sitting there watching this set, I came to realise just how much this tendency informs Pallett's entire approach. It's like how his voice is so often put through an intercom mic, and sung at a kind of half-pace so that it lags behind the music, never quite fulfilling the sense of feeling that it hints at. And that way he covered Joanna Newsom's Peach, Plum, Pear - whereas Newsom made this maybe the only song where she pulls back the layers and layers of metaphor and simile for unbridled emotional expression (screaming 'I am blue' in a thousand Joannas), Pallett as it were re-Newsomifies it, singing it in an almost throwaway manner that once more covers up its emotion.

And it is in all this that Final Fantasy asks us to confront an uneasy experience, but one that I think is worthwhile: something akin to the denial of our desire just as it is being fulfilled perfectly.

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