26 January 2014

SoundOut2014/1 (Friday night)

SoundOut returns for 2014, its fifth incarnation, and it's as bewildering and sometimes as beautiful as ever. But you must close your eyes. In some ways this is a feast to view - for the occasional invented instrument or the uses that traditional instruments are put to - but it can be doggedly disrespectful of visuals. That's the scene it is. I remember going on stage at the Blues Club wearing shorts, one steaming Australian afternoon, and after some quips I'll never wear shorts on stage again. (These days I always wear a suit!) Yet there were shorts a plenty here. And a band that pretty much turned its back to audience for most of the performance. I could only chuckle at this act of performance insubordination. No gaga here.

The women had it for visual presence, of course. Especially that dark stage with two screens for video (read 8mm film) performance with voice and violin sitting in front facing each other. This was visual to match truly immersive and interesting sound. I was well taken with Viv's voice. It veered throughout vocal tones, tonguing, breath, vocalisations, precise intervals, slides, throat and Native American and the rest. Vibrant and beautifully formed sounds of immense variation. Well accompanied by Melanie on a violin that was legato or staccato bowed, mostly on one or few notes, lots of harmonics, some formed notes. Louise presented two screens of experimental film, mostly dark, images flipping about three times a second, mostly monotonal but with some reds and blood and just a fleeting blue; one or two images, of trees or outback, but mostly amorphous with damage-like overlays. This was a visual and aural treat.

The Overtone Ensemble was four blokes, sometime with backs to audience, but also strangely aware of their visuals. Their instruments were set in symmetrical V, open to the audience, their gloves were matched (stage left blue; stage right green). As with all this music, you need to close eyes and be open and attentive. This, too, deserved attention. They played with a loose structure, opening with drones created from bells and bowls, like those squeeks and rings you got from a wet finger on crystal glasses at Christmas dinners. Then to mallet hits on tuned, differently-lengthed horizontal aluminium pipes, then to handbells (20 metal bells with sprung clappers, five each for a deliriously beautiful sound) and finally to those vertical aluminium pipes that were played with rubber gloves stroking resined pipes (think ethereal, overtones and high frequencies, interference beats, crickets in the summer bush, presumably controlled by speed and tightness of the slide). Canberra is the site of one of two Australian carillons and this band was strangely similar in tonality at times. There was also some background from guitars with ebows (an elecromagnetic string vibrator), occasional bowed cymbals and the like. This was gentle structural change, delicate purity of tones and an ecstatic beauty in those bells. The presumed leader spoke of an interest in friction, magnetism and resonant systems. No surprise here.

Fourth set was Viv Corringham (voice), Melanie Herbert (violin) and Louise Curham (experimental film projections). Third set was the Overtone Ensemble (invented metal rod instruments) comprising Tim Catlin, Atticus Bastow, Dave Brown and Ceallaigh Norman. This post continues ...

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