Monday, November 28, 2011

Review: Colour out of Space Festival, Brighton, Sunday, 13th February, 2011

Woke up after not much sleep with an appalling hangover but realised that staggering into the hotel breakfast was going to be a good idea... Somewhat refreshed - we talk in relative terms - I scanned the program for the day – and went back to bed. But come 1 pm I was down at the Sallis Benney, determined to bear witness to as much as my knackered-up body could stand. Cat Hawed were first off the blocks – three musicians from Helhesten and Towering Breaker – and played a stunning set, I thought. Starting in chamber music mode, accentuated by the use of clarinet, perhaps, although it was played on the extremes of register, poised and balanced as they tested the day, building to a roar as the form spread to encompass wilder sounds, loosely corralled, as it were, by intelligence. Bad Orb (Sarah Albury's solo vehicle) – standing stage left to the side of the projections on screen at the ubiquitous rummage sale table holding her electronics, voicing: ur ur ur repeated/recorded into the mike (Ur-Sounds?) to be bounced back and manipulated as source material, backdrop to a film, triangular motif and bird image recurring – superb in the marriage of sight and sound here. My day was off to a good start (no sight of Hugh Metcalfe-ian strategies so far). Martin Klapper's take on home movies was fascinating, old footage transformed by his bespoke techniques, dragged down slightly by the music which was a trifle cartoony, but the general flow pulled it along beyond annoyance. Other films that grabbed me: Stuart Pound's 'Breath Dance,' a cool hokey cokey in which the film stops, jumps back, moves on to create a stylised dance of pedestrians in Trafalgar Square. 'I'll raise you like a mother,' by Violaine Bergoin was a disturbing meditation on the trial and execution of the Ceasescu's, live horrific soundtrack placed over images of family life. With Gaddafi's recent televised demise fresh in the mind, it's worth quoting Violaine's remarks about her film:

'This piece is a reconstitution of a precise moment of my life, as a 8 year old, during an everyday family dinner and the broadcasting of the Ceauescu couple being trialled and executed. When Elena Ceauescu cried for her life, screaming to the guards taking her "I'll raise you all like a mother", which was then dubbed in French, my heart stopped and these words have been haunting me ever since and has been bringing impressions of déjà- vu until now. Today it has become a banality to watch upheavals, wars, famines, executions, genocides at 8 o'clock news within a familial structure. Yet the conflicts in this world may reflect our disabilities to communicate which results in decaying relationships. Maybe wars start within families first and expand to massive proportions.'

Back down to the Old Market for the last leg of the festival. Just in time to catch Ninni Morgia and Silvia Kastel, great wild guitar and howled vocals, processed and chopped about. Abruptly moving into a hard thumping beat as they rocked out – one that got some of the audience idiot dancing. I missed the beginning of Maja Jantar's set. A slight, slim figure on the side stage who displayed a wide range of vocal techniques – singing in tongues avant scat which segued at one point into a cool version of 'Cry me a river.' And back again. Noticeable for being able to hold a large crowd with nothing but voice . Vom Grill was loud, vocal contortions put through the electronic shredder, turning his vocals inside out. (YouTube vid here of a performance in Paris a couple of years back).

Then on to Vinyl Terror and Horror, Camilla Sørensen and Greta Christensen's duo who upturn turntablism as they use records as source material for their manipulations. Breaking open the straight box of DJing to reveal many other worlds inside, which were then explored intensively, their collective intelligence produced some of the best music of the weekend for this old boy. Cracks, crashes, pops, scratches, sudden bursts of trombones, choirs, voices wrenched out of the grooves into new configurations. Superb!

Unfortunately for me, the last act of the weekend. Dog Lady. Mike Collino is from Detroit and I fancifully thought I could hear the ghosts of old machines from the auto assembly plants in the subterranean chunks of sound grinding against each other. Across which he lashes some fragments of violin to be tossed and processed through his electronics rig.  Great set - after which reluctantly I had to go...

Final thoughts: a fantastic weekend. Large emphasis this year on sound poetry, hardly any jazz, lots of interesting films and multi-media, Colour out of Space back and firing on all cylinders. The new main venue at the Old Market looks like a winner, the crowds who turned up throughout must surely signal a success. Thanks to all who made it happen. And hopefully it will be on again next year

Another viewpoint here...
complete with ten minute snapshot overview.

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