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Avolites Quartz console powers lighting for Mercury Prize winner and Grammy nominee James Blake

Avolites Quartz console powers lighting for Mercury Prize winner and Grammy nominee James Blake
Avolites Quartz console powers lighting for Mercury Prize winner and Grammy nominee James Blake

UK Celebrated lighting director Chris Bushell (pictured) chose a powerfully compact Quartz console from British manufacturer Avolites to busk the emotively impactful lighting for James Blake's gig at Brixton's o2 Academy, London. The show was part of the minimalist electronica star's world tour to promote his third album, 'The Colour in Anything', the much-anticipated follow-up to his Mercury-Prize-winning second album, 'Overgrown'.

Having previously worked with Amy Winehouse, Florence and the Machine and Arcade Fire, Bushell has been Blake's lighting director for over six years, accompanying him on his meteoric rise from unknown music graduate to Best New Artist nominee at the 2014 US Grammys.

Although an electronic artist, Blake insists that he and his band play all their instruments and gadgets live on stage. Similarly, he stipulates that the lighting and visuals are manipulated live too, to ensure the audience experience is as authentic as possible. Bushell relied on Avolites kit to do this.

"I own and use a Quartz console with a Titan Mobile Wing, all nicely packaged up in the custom Avolites wheelie case," says Bushell. "Together they give me enough control options to tweak, fuss and hit stuff moment by moment, all whilst still packing down nice and tight for air travel and dragging through festivals."

The compact Quartz console is the latest and smallest addition to the Titan Mobile family. It comes complete with on-board processing and a bright, vibrant 12.1" screen. Featuring the same high quality faders and hardware users expect from Avolites, it is small enough to be taken as hold luggage on a plane making it ideal for life on the road.

As Bushell recommends, the Quartz can be combined with a Titan Mobile Wing, which gives direct access to a range of powerful features - such as 30 precision playback faders, 50 programmable buttons, solo and flash buttons, shape overlay cues, blinders, house lights, smoke machines or performer key lights for TV productions.

Blake's show was designed by Bushell in partnership with United Visual Artists (UVA). Bushell was responsible for lighting, while the London-based creative practice crafted the video elements. UVA had previously created promotional videos for 'The Colour In Anything' and 'I Need A Forest Fire', which features a subdued aesthetic that focused on orbiting virtual and real life sources. The brief was that this was to be taken into the live shows and used holistically. Accordingly, Bushell and UVA agreed that a 'clean' stage free of props or gimmicks was required. That way lighting and video could be seamlessly blended in an immersive interplay of light and shadow, creating a unique artistic landscape and blurring the lines between the real and the virtual space. As a result, light sources were hidden from view by being recessed into shrouded trusses.

Each of the three musicians on stage was lit separately in a square of light. Bushell's rig contains GLP X4 Bar 20s to define the shape of the square with Martin Aura XBs clustered inside the square to light the subject within, along with SGM Q-7 and Source Four par fixtures to vary the palette above.

The pods were combined with similar hidden fixtures to the sides; Martin Viper Profiles hidden up beyond the shrouded pods and Martin Quantum Wash luminaires on the floor beneath the LED video screen. Par16 footlights cast silhouettes onto the screen when not in use.

Newly established rental and production house LCR (Lights, Control, Rigging) supplied the lighting package.

"The lighting gave me versatility through utter simplicity," explains Bushell. "I could contrast strong dramatic looks and then, with the haze off and fixtures hidden, I was also able to shade and blend the artists into the changing lit video landscape behind."

With such an artistic approach to the lighting, the intuitive nature of the Avolites console and software came to the fore.

"I love an Avolites desk because it's an art desk, not a maths desk," continues Bushell. "I can mix stuff around, manipulate and tweak, and everything stays where I left it. I tend to set up a series of elements track by track – from simple cues to convoluted nonsense – rather than stack cues on one big red button. This keeps it all live and adjustable to reflect the changing venue atmosphere, the colours, the vibe of the audience, the vibe of the band and my own mood."

Avolites Quartz console powers lighting for Mercury Prize winner and Grammy nominee James BlakeAvolites Quartz console powers lighting for Mercury Prize winner and Grammy nominee James Blake

24th November 2016

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