Th Laptop-orchestra and the nature of live performance

Laptoporchestra Berlin
I just got back from MAGISTRALE Kulturnacht‘s Medialounge in which a good friend of mine has some photos on exhibit. There was a series of laptop audio performances by various artists which climaxed with a live performance of the so called Laptoporchester Berlin. Seven guys on laptops nodding their heads.They opened with a couple of pieces that were lead by a guy on a cool seven string electric guitar which had a body that was just snap on bars in the shape of a traditional guitar (see picture). They then ended with a cover of Terry Riley’s ‘In C’ which I’d only recently discovered being a big fan of Steve Riech.
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Slagsmålsklubben @ Station Park, Berlin

Station park flyer

Went to this gig at Station Park last night. Was a bit of a fizzer, as far as Berlin gigs go. It was 9 Euro which is a bit pricey for most students here and there are plenty of other things happening on a Friday night in Berliner town. Otherwise there was a lot of potential as the live acts they lined up were quite good.
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Jamie Lidell @ the Sydney Festival

Milan 2005 pic-Arianna D'Angelica

I went to see this amazing act last night as part of the Syndey festival: Jamie Lidell, who is a vocalist that uses looping software (MAX/MSP) to loop his voice. He beatboxes, then loops it and then keeps adding layers on top of it mostly with just his voice. He has a sampler and adds in the odd artificial sound as well. He built up a techno track form scratch in front of us. This live aspect to his electronic music gave his performance an energy you don’t usually get with pre-programmed sets or DJ’ing.

He also did a number of straight soul numbers that were OK, he has an amazing voice and energy, but I found them to be slightly over done and a bit passé in content i.e. not adding anything new to the genre. Still, its interesting to see electronic based music side by side with more traditional styles of music. Particularly coming out of the one musician!

The only real complaint I had was that the show was a bit short (maybe just under an hour) and there wasn’t enough to dance to. Also he stopped between the more techno based tracks and this is annoying when your into the dancing.

Overall an entertaining evening and worth seeing again.

Squarepusher and DJ Luke Vibert at Koko

Squarepusher (live set) and Luke Vibert (DJ set) at Koko last night. Meccano, Jazz, moshing in the setting of the glamour’s Koko theatre/club. It was a night of contradictions.

I last Thursday (17th Nov 2005) I went to see Squarepusher supported by a live DJ set from Luke Vibert at Koko. I was completely blown away by it all!

I went with Dean Chamberlain (thanks for all the pictures) who is a big Luke Vibert fan and manager to spot the man before things got started hanging around the sound mixing booth. We arrived lot long after doors opened. The que was picked at by the mixed carrion of touters looking to buy tickets and party promoters pushing the next gig. It was quite intense which set the mood for the intense evening to come.

meccano music

The first act up was meccano set. A table was set up with a meccano construction on it and a little Casio keyboard. Wheels and pulleys were set up to turn and hit little strips of plastic that were some sort of trigger for a drum sound. The keyboard was set up like a large wind-up music box which had a long black cylinder rotating over the keys. Little fingers stick out form this cylinder would press the keys down making the sequence of notes. There was also a busted up old toy record player that was playing making a recordy ambient sound continually. At first this set up was puzzling and it sat on the projection screen for the first couple of hours. Once its design was understood the novelty wore thin.

The ‘artist’, Pierre Bastien, made music with this sort of primitive, home made, sequencer drum machine set up which was at first curious and then amusing but wore thin after about 10 minutes. He also played a baby muffled trumpet over the top of this and did achieve a sort of blue melancholy sound for some of it. His sound reminded me of Nils Petter Molvaer but with less energy and sophistication.

Luke Vibert started his set completely unannounced. There was an obvious change in mood and track selection which ranged from some very nice down tempo drum and bass to funk, which was completely unexpected and yet another twist in the course of the nights musical meanderings. It was quite refreshing to hear rhythm and melody again after Mr Meccanos forays.

Squarepusher showed up quite late and the place was buzzing with anticipation by this stage. I was a bit annoyed at him showing up so late to his own gig. He finally appeared on stage at 12 and we’d been waiting since 8. None the less he pulled out yet another surprise: Jazz.

Tom Jenkinsonon bass

Tom Jenkinson (aka Squarepusher) started his set off with Paul Hession (drums) and Mick Beck (saxaphone). They did a half dozen psychedelic Jazz numbers mixed with some Squarepusher type bass playing. All the pieces were intense, full of energy and showed a completely unexpected dimension to this arts playing that had me completely impressed.

Paul Hession, drums

A sentiment not shared by all the audience who where expecting a more bangy start after a long wait and who probably weren’t into Jazz. This just helped to highlight the diversity in the crowd that ranged form nerdy weedy white guys to Camden style Goths to Punks to just average looking middle aged couples who were not used to staying up this late anymore.

Mick Beck on saxaphone

Once the Jazz men had taken a bow Squarepusher went solo and did a long hour and a half set with two laptops and switch between three electric bass guitars. He played along to drum sequencing form the laptops that was more the crazy distorted drums and bass you’d expect form Squarepusher.

bass cam

Up until this point I had never really understood where his bass playing was coming from but I realised as he held a fret down and beat out a sequence on the strings with his right hand that he was using the bass guitar as a percussion instrument! He has a background playing drums and Jazz (I assume) and so his music is not that far off modern Jazz percussion. He has changed to a more electronic instrumentation and is always chasing an intense vibe as found in modern dance music. The compositions are intricate and sophisticated. His bass playing technique is highly skilled and full if energy. An amazing performer and artist altogether.

Squarepusher

At this point the dance floor turned mosh-pit and I managed to get close to the front near Dean who as glued to the railing right in front of where Squarepusher was playing. Eventually I retreated to one of the upper tears of Koko.

Koko in Camden is a superb venue. Its huge to begin with and used to be an old theatre I’m assume as it still looks the part. The interior is all a deep red colour and is covered in intricate lace work. There is a 4 meter disco ball hanging from its high roof, the biggest I’ve ever seen, yet it is lost in the feeling of space. There are five or six balconies with two of them sporting small intimate bars (and DJ booths).

The visuals were very well thought out and the most impressive I’ve seen to date. Mostly for their simplicity and effectiveness. The composition during the Jazz set was brilliant. A combination of simple screen wipes and two angle switching of the same shot. There band was emersed in a red wash that didn’t change much and was perfect for the mood. After the Jazz was over they quickly tore down the projection screen which revealed a the second matching box that dominated the stage. Squarepusher was squeezed between these lager rectangles who’s purpose was mystery until he did his first sequenced number, then they lit up jumping with simple white LED lights making patters that rected to the music and wowed the audience.

Overall an fantastic night out. My ears are still rigging and I’m happy to be in London!