Friday, November 25, 2011

Review: Colour out of Space Festival, Brighton, Saturday, 12th November, 2011

Saturday: strolled somewhat painfully from the hotel to the Sallis Benney (where the whole festival used to be held) for the afternoon sesh of film and sonics. Too much walking over the previous couple of days had left me somewhat hors de combat. I didn't stay for the whole event but caught Blue Yodel (Fiona Kennedy's solo gig) which cleansed my synapses suitably. Slew of good films: one that impressed me by its unsettling weirdness was 'Trypps#6 Malobil' by American Ben Russell. Catch a glimpse here... A group of presumably white people in strange costumes come out of a building in a tropical village, soundtracked by drumming, walk through the assembled locals as off-camera sharp reports like gunfire occur sporadically. Some simulated sex. Some collision of cultures going on. If the A Band ever go on tour to South America, it could be like this. Ho ho. Apparently shot in the Maroon village of Malobe in Suriname. One of those films that lodge in your brain and will rerun over and over. Disturbing in a way it is difficult to describe.

Jeff Keen's movie was a psychedelic blast, fast moving streams of collage/images. But one bummer: never having seen Hugh Metcalfe live, I will never make the mistake of doing so in the future. The movie of his trip to an Austrian festival was embarrassing, to say the least. He used to team up with the late Bob Cobbing but his wanky repeating of phrases along the lines of: 'I fucking don't give a shit/Shit I fucking don't give/Give I fucking don't a shit' etc ad nauseam came across as some bad attempt at sound poetry/was just plain stupid. The barriers were broken a long way back, old cock. He looked like a middle-aged geography teacher trying to get down with the kidz.  How trangressive it all was. Called his ad hoc group: 'Turd Class.' Says it all, really. Maybe he should start a 'Feral Choir' (one of my other pet hates). Or as Bruce Sterling once said: 'If you want a sustained, independent and transgressive community that can’t be co-opted by society at large, you need to get out of the boho art scene, and right into organized crime.'
On a weekend bursting with creativities of all kinds, this was pathetic. But thanks for the warning...

Evening and back at the Old Market. Festivals are always over-loaded – it's difficult to get to every act, even when back to back in one place. Economies of thirst, urination etc, plus in my case, juggling with fatigue. So the night became truncated – more by accident in the end, it has to be said, when I ended up watching the boxing on Sky down the Conqueror, then became engrossed in conversations/new meetings with interesting people. But I caught Martin Klapper and Martin Jezek's set: video backdrop with electronics which were loud and crunchy but always moving forward, falling almost into conventional rhythms at times which kept them on track. Again, the performance filled the time with a logic that manifested through its form. Good stuff – and a Saturday feel now, hall crowded and buzzing early. This was going to be a sweaty, uncomfortable night... yet even the mob would fall silent when impressed, which is the hallmark of this festival. Where I was standing by the merch stalls, I thought I had taken a good vantage point for PeterFengler's segment, but more and more people pressed in – yet settled down quickly enough to enjoy the 'show.' Entitled 'Baroque/Non Baroque, I think. Which was as if Samuel Beckett had scripted a surreal cabaret for Tommy Cooper. Completely deadpan, based on repetitions of actions, stances and speech that seemed to inject obscure meanings into banal gestures, Fengler held this audience, slowly overcoming puzzlement and random chatter. And he was very funny. Suddenly jumping onto a low table, bending forward on hands and knees, lifting a leg and holding the pose. Bouncing a ball on the stage – my OCD took over and I found myself counting the number of repetitive acts until I stopped myself – tapping bits of wood. Scrunching a plastic cup while wrenching his head around in both hands to simulate colliding vertabrae. Again – difficult to describe why this was entertaining. He stretched patience to breaking point, then you realised that he was skilfully and dryly hilarious.

YouTube to the rescue again gives a flavour of the man...

The next section I caught was PC Fencott (aided by Robin Fencott), veteran of sound/word experimentation for many years, another link to the late Bob Cobbing, one of the dominant spirits in the air this weekend, it seemed.
Playing with some computer graphics that manipulated words, he presented 'Paradiddle Rox,' his voice processed into loops and echoes, creating a wild choir from his solo readings. But his best piece for me was a poem about the experience of sea-diving off the coast somewhere oop north. Foregrounding literally the poetics of breath, he simulated the gulps of air in a diver's mouthpiece in between the lines that described the experience of submergence and movement under water. Catching the paradox: freedom and the claustrophobia of being trapped in the body's need for oxygen, the element of danger in navigating under the sea. He held the audience rapt – then brought them in to join in on the last piece which involved singing out lines that echoed across the hall in overlapping waves. Like folk music almost, but more interesting... How this generates its own order is ultimately fascinating and just using the most basic flexible units available – human voices. Superb.

Catch some of his Colour out of Space performance here

I moved forward and found a space by a door.  The crowd was filling the hall now, with more and more pressing in.  Leather jacket off as the heat was rising from the proximity of so many - upon which someone managed to spill beer.  An accident, a jogged arm.  I realised as more people were struggling to get in that this venue must be approaching some danger limit for occupancy. We were waiting for Rainonbashi and Dylan Nyoukis: someone in a blindfold slipped by and crouched briefly as disembodied noises and voices came through the sound system. Setting an eery atmosphere... The figure disappeared into the crowd, tracked by flashes that came from his seemingly randomly taking of digital photographs. An experiment in unease? I decided to go and left for the Conqueror and the boxing. A fascinating and potentially disturbing experience but I don't like crowds when they are jammed so close and figured with some incipient paranoia that it would just take one psychedelic voyager in the crush to flip into bad vibesville and a stampede could have been on.

Not so much seen and heard, then, but most of it satisfyingly hitting the right spots.

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