Posted by on August 8, 2010

Immersound at The Others, London August 6th

by fourm on August 8, 2010

Nestled amongst the hurly burly of the hinterlands of Hackney and Stamford Hill is the alternative arts/music space known as The Others, situated in a former industrial site on Manor Road. This is to be the location of the inaugural event promoted by the newly formed Soundfjord organisation, based in London, UK, featuring renowned sound artists from around the globe. Curators Helen Frosi and Andrew Riley have here assembled a representative cross section of the current sonic arts community, featuring established artists, and introducing burgeoning talent. Within the framework of the increasingly maligned and marginalised genre of sound art, this is no mean feat, however Frosi and Riley wisely manage to enroll the talents of Yann Novak and Robert Curgenven to bolster the event’s status, both being recent additions to the USA’s prestigious LINE imprint curated by Richard Chartier, and NVO recent additions, i8u and FOURM, alongside Dragon’s Eye (Novak’s own imprint) stalwart Ian Hawgood, and relative newcomers, Mimosa Moize Mimosa Moize open the evening with rapturous swathes of tonal and textural elegance, taking a highly restrained approach that is to be the essential theme of the evening. The duo of Lucia Chung and Martin J Thompson set their stall early, intently crouched over laptops, their work envelops and swirls with graceful, understated activity. Sadly, the set is curtailed by what appears to be an ailing mixing desk, and the duo exit the stage, discontent, but doubtless having learned some of the lessons that live performance brings to bear. The new set by yours truly (FOURM), showcases a work called “interval.impuls”, loosely based on the Method and Area series of recordings, informed by and through architecture, and using the resonance and harmonics of the performance space to evoke curious and engaging sonic patterns. Performed in near total darkness, the overall effect was (hopefully) intense, with cyclic patterns and tonal bursts revolving around a continuously (r)evolving resonant bass-scape. Not being a fan of live presentations on the laptop, I am an unwilling spectator of my own works, and the success (or not) of the piece depends on others more qualified than I to comment upon. Ian Hawgood took to the performance space with a burst of endearing good cheer and a brief explanation of his recent work with gamelan music and instruments recently purchased from the far east. The husband and wife duo are crouched on the floor for the duration of the set, with wife striking copper bells, and Hawgood himself crash editing and sampling them, fusing them into his now trademark soundscapes, best exemplified by his recent Snow Roads release on Dragon’s Eye. The overall effect is a slightly dreamy, murky gamelan, that to these ears at least would have benefitted from more volume in order to impose itself on the space. That said, the net result was interesting, but once again suffering from interference and unwanted crackle from deficient P.A. wiring. Yann Novak, to those sadly uninitiated souls, hails from the seething metropolis that is Los Angeles, and his more recent works are a harsh counterpoint to what one imagines is a city brimming with activity. Novak’s works are elegantly rendered affairs, taking tones and textures and overlaying and interlacing them with a poise and grace that resembles Richard Chartier’s early forays, however, this is no pallid derivative of Chartier’s work. Naturally, the two have met and performed in the same spaces, yet Novak has carved his own identity into his work, and is here presenting works simultaneously with an installation “Stillness”, also curated by Soundfjord. The entire performance, once again takes place in near darkness, an eerie silence befalls the audience who are doubtless enraptured by Novak’s exquisite tonal renderings. The diminutive figure of France Jobin, aka i8u, takes to the performance space almost unnoticed, closely followed by a series of muscular, energetic sounds the like of which it is hard to imagine her crafting. “Crafting” here is the key word, and as the piece unfolds, it reveals multiple layers and textural shifts, alongside subtle interplays of dynamics and the building of tension, this for me is one of the high points of the evening, and in uncharacteristic unrestrained manner, I let out a loud whoop as Jobin’s set ends, such is the joy that I felt at such an elegantly crafted work. Having never encountered the work of Robert Curgenven, who only recently burst onto my radar, through having his sublime “Oltre” work just released on LINE, I was intrigued as the man strode in predatory manner, barefoot towards a triptych of record decks, with all manner of bowls and wine glasses strewn around him. The intensity of Curgenven’s work is mirrored by the man himself, whose mild manner and effortless sense of humour dissipate once he enters his space. At soundcheck, Curgenven is scrupulously principled, instantly winning my admiration as he verbally emits a series of clicks and clucks to test the natural acoustics of the space, and then sets about pushing the equipment and the technician to their absolute limits. Curgenven is obviously a man who resists any form of compromise, and his performance is as engaging visually as it is acoustically. Once again marred by the ailing P.A. Curgenven halts his activities to adjust the speaker’s crackling wiring system, only to once again ignite the space with sensuous feedback, and swirling harmonics. It’s a warm, soupy blend that really should be rich and multi –tonal, vivified with sparkling harmonics, and a decidedly bottom heavy affair, but we have to settle for what the ailing rock P.A, ( and presumably slightly bemused soundman) are able to offer. Technical difficulties aside, this was an encouraging first outing for the Soundfjord organisation, and doubtless, after the initial licking of wounds, promises to carve out a unique path for the UK’s woefully under-represented sonic arts community, as well as visitors with the clout and kudos of Novak. Th event billed itself as “An evening of momentous sonic environments,absorbing, contemplative sound sculpture + sublime, immersive sound art”, and to most of the folks that I spoke with, that remit was admirably filled. The necessary limitations with regard to a specialised space, top quality sound equipment and adequate funding will always rear their ugly head, particularly in marginalised art forms that deserve better, but as events go, and if lessons are learned, the venture has the potential to fill a gap in the sonic arts that is long overdue, and my respect and admiration for the artists and promoters alike is unbounded. Baz Nichols – WHITE_LINE / FOURM/ Level August 2010