Review: FKJ at Rocket Bar

Words by Lewis Brideson / Photos by Dave Court

“We have a lot of internationals here tonight, make ‘em feel welcome.”

Last Friday night Adelaide followed Oisima’s instructions, welcoming a generous dose of international musicians and quality electronic music. We were in for something special, with multi-instrumentalist and star of the new French house scene FKJ playing Cats at Rocket Bar & Rooftop.

Japanese artist Sauce81 began the night with funk infused mechanical grooves. Whilst the venue was still awaiting its dance floor, Sauce81’s humble presence and raw beats had early comers beginning to two-step to snappy claps and warm sawtooths. His set was soothing with an emphasis on looping soft vocals from beneath his bucket hat.

Unfortunately, local artist Oscilla was no longer able to perform. Luckily, BODY MOVEMENT DJs were there to deliver funky house and disco selections to glue the night together. As well as a later set from Japanese DJ Grooveman Spot a.k.a. DJ Kou-g to keep the night thumping.

Local favourite Oisima had something special in store, performing with a new four-piece band and being way too modest as always. While at times the mix did not support the complexity of the many layers, needing clarity, it was still a joy to immerse yourself within. The set provided even more proof of the incredible musicality and sonic texture that underpins Oisima’s production, songwriting and talent of him and his mates. For those who have missed previous performances with larger ensembles it was a treat to hear some new and old favourites adapted for a sax/keys/production/bass line-up.

By this point the audience had tucked into the wooden paneling surrounding Rocket’s dance floor, set to wear in the soles of their shoes. It was evident as soon as FKJ (AKA French Kiwi Juice) entered his cockpit of music gear that everyone was there to see him. FKJ began with ‘Learn to Fly’, and it was refreshing to be surrounded by people who appreciated and were ready for the journey ahead. FKJ constantly switched instruments; spitting rays of light from the pegs of boogie guitar lines, disco bass, indulging in smooth sax solos or extended synth jams with heavy use of pitch bends. What was scary was, apart from his absurd skill in playing every instrument with next-level proficiency, how quickly he changed between them. While FKJ’s whole set was built around looping these instruments (and at times his voice) along with pre-produced tracks, he never sacrificed song structure for the loop. This meant very quick changeovers and not indulging in overly repeated loops, keeping the dance floor alive. FKJ kept true to the favourites off his EPs, and at times extended solos or swooned us all with gripping piano interludes. Remixes of ZHU and Lianne La Havas ignited the crowd, as well as a sing-along to the ‘oh, oh baby ah’ of an extended ‘Lying Together’, before ending with ‘So Much to Me’.

FKJ had little to say into the mic, relying on his music to speak volumes. It’s been a while since I’ve witnessed an electronic artist combine such incredible skills so fluently with a dance floor. FKJ, you’re welcome in Adelaide anytime.