Live Report: JoyCut – Teatro Auditorium Manzoni, Bologna

Posted by

JoyCut do things differently. Performing tonight in their native Bologna with the Orchestra of the Municipal Theater of Bologna, the first indication of JoyCut’s singularity is less the fifty-piece orchestra and more the opening salvo of a recorded reading from German philosopher Günther Anders’s 1956 essay The Obsolescence of Man. As we shall see, this rooted in the band’s fierce commitment to climate activism.

Though underground stalwarts across Italy for nearly two decades now, JoyCut make a mess of easy genre definitions. Tonight, though their sound leans towards prog, the rise and descent of their arrangement has more in common with post-rock. A song can start off close to slowcore, even textures comparable to The Stars Of The Lid, before ending up – like the excellent track ‘Antropocene_’ – in gorgeous, slow-motion EDM pitched somewhere between the concert hall and the club. Tonight, supported by the fifty-piece orchestra, is a clear expansion of JoyCut’s sound. Though much of the set is taken from new album ‘The BluWave’, one hopes it is only the beginning of a fruitful collaboration with the Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna conducted by Dal Maestro Raven.

JoyCut have been cited by Robert Smith of The Cure repeatedly as one of his favourite bands – performing at his 2020 Meltdown Festival – and tonight on tracks like ‘Francis&Violet_’ and the moody abstraction of ‘Darwin_’ there’s a decidedly gothic melancholy to JoyCut’s textures. JoyCut’s stated aim of an audio visual experience – they have previously performed a six-act opera at the Venice Biennale in part of their ongoing interrogation of doing things differently – and tonight that manifests itself in a large projection of videos emphasizing not just the climate emergency but the emptied cities brought on by the Covid pandemic. 

There’s a contemporary debate around the extent which musicians can move from sustainability as a buzzword to an actualised concept. Brian Eno’s EarthPercent charity across 2023 has so far led on helping the music industry to support the most impactful organisations addressing the climate emergency. JoyCut have, since their inception, collaborated with organisations such as 350.org and Italian Climate Network, even ensuring their packaging and artwork as well as travel is certified sustainable. This feeds into a climate consciousness brought to the fore during their set repeatedly.

— 

This is not a short set, and whilst two hours of JoyCut’s mostly instrumental work can sometimes lack the momentum to sustain the set’s energy, the sheer dynamic range of JoyCut’s crystalline post-rock provides the anchor to a lengthy performance. Little known in the UK, a hometown triumph in Bologna is ample evidence that JoyCut have matured into a formidable and deeply rooted name in the Italian underground with experimental yet accessible and often poignant soundscapes that are squeamish about genre confines. Doing things differently, tonight JoyCut deliver a classy and sustained triumph.

Words: Fergal Kinney