Icebreaker Festival gets a techno fix from Taro Records

Icebreaker, the festival celebrating the best in unsigned and up-and-coming acts from our region, returns next weekend.

Friday, 18th January 2019, 3:41 pm
Updated Thursday, 7th February 2019, 5:54 pm
Electronic duo Syrette (Taro Division and Aaron Udy), who are behind Taro Records, will be hosting a stage at Icebreaker Festival 2019. Picture by Joe Watson

And with more than 100 acts performing across 13 stages on the Friday and Saturday, there should be something for all music-lovers to enjoy.

For the first time this year, there will be a dedicated electronica stage, as Portsmouth-based Taro Records take over the One Eyed Dog on Friday.

Aaron Udy, who will be performing as one half of Syrette with his partner in crime, Elliott Cronin, helped put the night together.

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When the festival’s organisers put out their annual call for acts to apply for the chance to play, Aaron saw an opportunity to ‘shake it up a bit.’

He says: ‘I said we could put together a live act, by that I mean instead of just turning up and playing records, we’re talking fully live drum machines, modular synthesizers, I said we’ll make it like it’s a gig atmosphere. But if you’re worried you don’t want to throw us in with a load of guitar bands, or you don’t know any other artists to put us with, let me know and I’ll see if I can put something together.’

As a result they made him an offer he couldn’t resist.

‘It’s quite stressful putting on gigs – I did it many moons ago, putting on rock, punk and hip-hop gigs, so I know how hard it can be. I went for a chat with them and they said you can have the One Eyed Dog on Friday night and do what you like with it.’

Elliott, who releases solo as Taro Division, founded the record label. He started putting out tracks by Aaron, who soon started getting more involved with the label side.

As the label has taken off, bringing in artists from ‘all over’, the pair decided to put their heads together musically as well as on the business-side and created Syrette. But their slot at Icebreaker marks their debut as a live act.

‘We’ve been doing Syrette for about 18 months, releasing music on our own label and on other labels, and starting to get bookings as DJs elsewhere, but this is our live debut – it’s going to be a combination of bits of our recorded output and improvisations. It’s pretty scary,’ he laughs.

The other acts playing on the bill are Total State Machine, The Burning Trestle and Jackarack.

‘We’ve got people who span back to the time in Portsmouth when techno was a big thing – you’ve got Geushky and you had Release, Binary Nation, things like that.

‘We’ve got Simon Hartfield, and Chris Collins who are playing together and they’re debuting a live set as an act together. They’ve both done things separately before – Simon’s put out tonnes of albums, and he’s always done live music, so he’s bringing in Chris who was a DJ at Release and Geushky years ago, and they’ve both done bits of music for my label. 

‘I asked them if they wanted to be involved and they said they would do something together, which was really cool.’

With Taro Records finding success outside their home region, Aaron hopes the night will help introduce their more serious-minded club music to a few new sets of ears.

‘The issue is that the environment here isn’t receptive to a proper club culture. Yeah, there’s plenty of student bars, but the kind of music we play it’s dark and it’s heavy, and it isn’t mainstream, and even when we lighten it up a bit, it’s the kind of music that people in Belgium, Spain, Germany would take it as normal club music, but people are often put off by things like the fact it doesn’t have vocals.

‘Especially now pubs are open until 1am, there’s nowhere you can really put on a club night and expect people to come without spending a lot on promotion and already having a social following locally.

‘On the night hopefully there will be people milling around between the venues and we’ll have enough people in there for people to want to stay and wonder what’s going on – it’s not just an empty room with some guys at a table, there’s actually people there enjoying it!’

The rest of the two-day line-up ranges from indie-rock to metal, country and more, with headliners including Wild Front, Seething Akira, Hallan, Lily Garland and Shoot The Duke.

Icebreaker Festival

Various venues, Southsea

January 25-26