Secret Sky digital music festival features creative and flashy sets

June 5, 2021 — by Christopher Chen and Jonathan Si
Photo by Jonathan Si

On April 24, 2021 between 12 and 8:15 p.m., the digital festival Secret Sky was streamed on various platforms such as YouTube, Twitch, Oculus VR etc.

In front of the digital backdrop of flashing colors and moving backgrounds, EDM artists Boyz Noise and Laxcity DJ-ed their tracks for Porter Robinson’s digital music festival Secret Sky on April 24 over various platforms including YouTube, Twitch and Oculus VR. 

Following the release of his second album “Nurture,” Robinson hosted the second Secret Sky, a precursor to the more exciting second iteration of Robinson’s in-person music festival, Second Sky, last September. This Secret Sky festival featured a collection of different artists, including Robinson, Swardy and Kero Kero Bonito. 

Robinson played his new album “Nurture” live for the first time at this festival, which combines electronic music, tranquil piano solos and his vocals.

On initial listening, the vocalist of the songs sounds like a separate female voice. However, it’s actually Robinson singing with a filter that raises the pitch of his voice.

In a tweet on Jan. 29, he wrote, “At first, I [made my voice higher] because it made it easier to talk about painful subjects directly, and then slowly I grew really attached to the sound of that voice.” 

The alternating of his voice from higher pitched to unfiltered matched the tone of each part of his songs, whether low and quiet or emotional and loud.

Nonetheless, the visual effects accompanying each song were the most impressive part of the performance. The background of his stage rotated and pulsated with the clear beats of his music, showing scribbled drawings, nature and trippy art that lit up his body as he performed. Bright lights flashed through the stronger parts of his songs, while lights dimmed and calmed during the soft, crooning piano portions.

The concert, however, was not limited to just singing or DJ-ing. 

Another artist, Swardy, performed many of his songs, such as “I Remember Maine'' and “Submersiverse,” in several outlandish sets, each with their own physical props and costumes. The opening set was a pirate ship, where he sported a classic pirate’s outfit with a beard and a silky silver wig. Later, a scene made up of paper cutouts depicted a giant squid pulling the ship down, bringing Swardy to the second set: an underwater environment complete with dancing seaweeds, blue ambient lighting and Swardy playing on his moss-covered synthesizer.

These sets also meshed well with the music. For example, the groovy tune of “Morne Diablotins” was accompanied with a dancing masked man, making the set seem almost psychedelic.

While Swardy’s sets seemed to tell a story, it was difficult to make out the overall plot because the storyline was told only through the progression of the various sets. Despite the vagueness, however, the performance is worth watching because of the intriguing and astounding creativity of the set. 

Kero Kero Bonito, a British band, also performed its extended plays (EP) “Civilisation I,” a dark EP that illustrates the destruction of human civilization due to human actions like war and global warming, and “Civilisation II,” which explores the past, present and future with songs about a princess, the pandemic and the future. Both EPs have a return to synth-pop and feature solemn vocalization and chaotic instrumentation, which complements the serious topics discussed in the songs.

Though it was undoubtedly a good live performance, the songs performed sounded too similar to the recorded version. There weren’t many changes made to the live performance, making it not very memorable as a unique experience.

The Secret Sky festival has recordings available on platforms like YouTube. Though there are sets with interesting effects and unique music that are worth watching, there are several sets without exciting visuals that may not be for all audiences.

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