Above a pool hall in North London is The Others, complete with chesterfields and a warm modestly lit stage, indian rugs and a table full of contraptions - homemade synths, a rack of oscillators and other modular gear, light sensor and, a Nintendo console. Attending are a cosy number of people ready to talk but not to party, old through young, the variety of people was a welcome surprise.
Martin Delaney opened the night with a set of rigid tense drum tracks, adding raw sine waves and soft atmospheric chirps to the mix. Gradually adding more effects, the composition soon swallowed itself up, taking an aggressive yet ambient turn. The structure of his set a discovery for me - despite the slow audible addition, subtraction, and warping of sound within the mix, it still had clear progression to lead the listener through the performance. Where Ableton live performances often offer precision and structure to the performance, they don’t give the same window on how creative possibilities are explored in the moment in terms of the choices that musicians can take.
Nnja Riot’s ritualistic method made use of light and kinetic devices and was as much performance art as it was musical. Using a collection of DIY synths, such as light sensors within a jar triggered by an LED toy,
the female musician began by setting a ‘base’ of bubbling distortion before chanting through a microphone. The movement of the distortion and tone acted rather like an extreme sort of vocoder, making Nnja’s voice sound both demonic and ethereal. This performance was the most sonically varied. Sometimes it was painful to my ears, but the listening experience gave me an insight I’d not thought about before.
Hooks are generally discovered and placed effectively, and we ,the audience, then learn, anticipate and enjoy those hooks through the structure of the music. However, with this, I felt myself enjoying the fleeting moments. Unable to anticipate them, beautiful sounds would appear, hinting at melodic hooks or powerful bass lines just long enough to appreciate before quickly returning back to chaos. Between each performance there was ample time to discuss and explore what had been presented. Nnja invited people to look at her equipment and described its use. Demystifying the creative process is now a common theme in the arts. As we head towards an automated world, understanding the breadth of creativity that people can engage with may be helpful to a positive ‘post work’ future.
Claude Heiland-Allen’s project Clive is an example of Live-coding audio in C produced by sequencing and modulating soft synths on-the-fly through a text interface. Claude has an array of instruments compiled in a directory, and as he makes changes to parameters, they are automatically recompiled. While I’ve seen this kind of work before, I generally don't enjoy it; however, Claude nailed it by creating some banging, well-structured techno for about thirty minutes. By viewing his script on a projector throughout the performance, we were presented with yet another interesting window through which to view the process behind the work, giving an oddly objective view of what we subjectively enjoyed. A fascinating performance, this was the most musically pleasurable of the evening.
Finally, Medial Ages was a presentation that made us of visual oscillators which produce a repetitively modulated wave. The oscillator, a light source, controls the circuits, which then modulates the signal in an integration of sound and light. Certainly the most ‘noisy’ performance, the repetitive nature of the sounds paired with the strobe light was uncomfortable. Recalling The Bug’s statement that ‘not all music has to make you feel good’ [sic], I embraced the convulsing noise and agitating light, finding something else entirely. When it was over, I felt a cathartic release that was somehow different from dancing all night, albeit effective nonetheless. The sheer force of stimulation flooded my brain, and so, when taken away, I experienced something akin to meditation, but in reverse. Rather than clearing my mind of thoughts, my head was cleared by silence.
Queer Noise and noise music in general has surprised me; it’s not ultra hardcore, it’s not a party, it’s not for everyone but it is unique and has certainly opened me to a new way of listening.
If you’re interested in checking out all this tech/noise stuff and many other interesting performances, check out Muslab 2018 Festival of Electroacoustic Music and Digital Art on the 20th October in Lambeth.