Oli Freke

Tech House / Techno / House

Filtering by Tag: Gig Review

Holden review - Purcell Room, 17/06/2014

Now this was more like it! A man, a massive Doepfer modular synth and a drummer.

First up was the support though -  a man who didn't introduce himself and then played fairly standard FTB (Faceless Techno Bollocks) for 40 minutes. Don't get me wrong, I like FTB as much as the next man, but when coupled with jittery double exposure 'contraversial' video of meat, old people and toddlers having their ears pierced, it doesn't really cohere as a 'thing'. So moving on...

Holden was great. Once again I'll have to retract my Sound on Sound article decrying the use of real drums in electronic music. When the electronics are as pure as this, the fizz and crackle of an acoustic kit is a perfect counterpoint, adding weight and energy. As well as a bit of visual interest!

So, yeah, an hour of hypnotic arpeggiated, full spectrum analogue synths. Some tracks reminiscent of Vangelis lusciousness with an added dash of Aphex Twin Ambient works (Blackpool Late 80s'), others more reminiscent of Tangerine Dream in their hay day (The Caterpillar's Intervention). Al of which was hypnotic enough to build up momentum and atmosphere, but avoided minimalistic austerity.

I loved it. It was my favourite thing - tight conceptual work that stimulates creativity rather than leading down a cul-de-sac. Inspiring.

Fuck Buttons - Barbican Review 25/04/2014

Saw the Buttons of Fuck last Friday at the Barbican. Very fine indeed - first gig I've seen of theirs and I'd happily see 'em again.

Using the tactics of minimalism they deployed huge blocks of sound endlessly churning over. Despite the repetition it never settled down to a boring groove; the looping segments always yearning for something intangible and always starting afresh with a renewed urgency.

I've never seen an electronic act really give the Barbican Hall an atmosphere, but these guys managed it. Even thought it looked absurd in a seated auditorium, about a quarter of the circle rose to their feet and swayed / grooved to the physicality of the sound.

The simple device of projecting their silhouettes on the screen and overlaying it with various psychodelic nonsense also added up to the overall hypnotic effect.

I loved 'em.

Supporting were Mount Kimbie, who I wasn't so impressed by. All the faff with a metallic (noisy) parachute above the stage and 1960's era Pink Floyd reflected water ripples didn't seem to warrant the effort of 15 (count 'em) stage hands to dissassemble the mess. And various other musicians trooping on and off stage during the gig didn't seem to add much to the generally muddy, bass heavy sound.

And don't get me started on the self-regarding be-hatted photographer who posed around the place 'doing art'.

After the gig were noisy noise merchants Fenesz, who seemed quite good, but my chums & I wanted to have a conversation so we hid round the corner where we could hear ourselves speak.

Top evening all round, and top marks to http://bleep.com/ for organising it.

Steve Reich, ‘Drumming’

Review of Steve Reich’s, ‘’Drumming’
Colin Currie Ensemble, Queen Elizabeth Hall.
Tuesday 16th February, 2010.

Still great after 39 years.

This is the second time I’ve seen Steve Reich’s, ”Drumming’; last time was about 15 years ago at the Royal Festival Hall. I still remember how the drums were arranged in a semi circle and how one of the guys dropped a stick during one of the complex sections and kept playing with one hand as he picked it up. I’m still impressed to this day.

This performance was just as exciting even though no sticks went astray. From the first assertive pulse of the opening drum, this was an assured and polished performance by Colin Currie’s 12 strong ensemble. All musicians obviously having fun and the overall effect electrifying.

What I had completely forgotten about the piece is the pyscho-acoustic level of the work. The musical aspects are fascinating and deep in their own right – the divisions of the 12/8 bar with the pulse shifting from groups of two, three, four and six, and the phase shifts familiar from works like Piano Phase. But what really surprised me was how the ear and brain deals with sound that is highly repetitive: you get into that sound, you can almost analyse the sound mathematically as you pull apart the layers of the sound and examine each in detail.

The first layer of sound is the surface of the music – you can hear music being played by musicians, and very accessible and exciting it is too. But after a while you notice the second layer of the constituent parts of each note as they happen: you can hone in on the beater strike on the drum skin (and marimba and xylophone later): skin produce a solid thud, marimba a sharper higher transient, and xylophone a metallic fizz.

Then you can choose to listen to the resonant part of each note following the beater strike. A kind of slow attack synth note that defines the pitch and timbre of the instrument.

And then finally – and this is where things can get a bit weird – you can listen to the reverb of each note in the hall. Or rather not each note, but the sum of sound in the hall, a kind of evolving wash from low to high frequency that fills in the gaps left by the beater and note resonances.

You notice that it has a kind of natural compression effect in the ear – when a note is played the reverb disappears, but within the gaps in time and frequency, the reverb zooms back into focus, and then disappears again instantly after a new note has been played. Focus on this stuff, fading in an out, like the over-used side-chain compression in dance music (think Justice) and you begin to hear some very peculiar things going on.

For example, during the early marimba phase of Part II, a sub-bass tone could be heard in the reverb. None of the notes were low enough to generate sub-bass, so it must have been a function of closely pitched beat frequencies? Ear canal sound wave compression? Who knows. It was very bizarre.

One was also able to notice a tangible and crunchy ring modulation effect when two or more xylophone notes were played simultaneously – what can only be considered to be analague frequency modulation, a contradiction in terms. The frequencies being added and subtracted in real time in the room, rather than in digital maths in a Yamaha DX7.

So, the acoustics of this piece are as easily important as the music – I haven’t even talked yet about how the 12/8 rhythm used is based on the same one that Brazilians and African use for their rhythm based music. And how this isn’t a mere copying of African tribal music, but a genuinely new music based on rhythm.

The pyscho-acoustic nature is proved in part three where singers and picolo pick up ‘virtual melodies’ created by the fast repetitive patterns and turn them into reality by playing or singing them.

Blah blah blah, this is all just words…you need to go and have a listen to it yourself!

Oh, and by the way, Steve Reich himself was at this performance and in the post concert talk said it was the first time he’d experienced it as a member of the audience, and that it had moved him to tears. In a good way!

Amadou & Mariam: iTunes Festival gig review

A quick review from me of last night’s gig at the Roundhouse, Camden, with Amadou and Mariam.

French People
There were many many French people at the gig. I don’t know if this is because A&M are much bigger in France than here, or because Mali (where A&M are from) is an ex-French colony and somehow that’s the connection. Or because the support act Charlie Winston is apparently #1 in the French charts.

Charlie Winston – support
Never heard of him, but he claimed to have the #1 selling album currently in France. Seems bizarre as his band were fairly conventional acoustic blues-rock. Why pick him over any other average acoustic pop-rock band?

Not sure, but if you happen to be in an average soundingacoustic blues-rock band struggling to make an impact here in the UK, I suggest you head over to France!

Amadou & Mariam
Yey! They were great, deploying their highly funky and surprisingly fierce-at-times sounding afro-beat-pop. I’d forgotten to mention to Meg that Amadou and Mariam were both blind, so she was surprised when they were helped on by stagehands. You realise how much performers must rely on seeing the audience when you find a pair of musicians who it doesn’t matter how much you wave your hands or dance in front if, they won’t be able to see the effect. There was plenty of cheering to keep them assured of our presence though.

But it’s the music what matters, and it’s rare for a 90 minute set go by so quickly. The crowd took a few songs to warm up, but by the end the atmosphere was hot, everyone dancing.

The only slight weirdness was by the end of the last song, we all knew they hadn’t played their hit song ‘Senegal Fast Food’ so when the musicians left the stage, we the audience did the usual ‘encore’ and ‘more’ stuff expecting it to be played. So when a roadie came on and unplugged the first microphone it caused the crowd to actually boo – which isn’t great form, no matter how much you wanted another song.

I had actually spent the week trying to learn words of Senegal Fast Food so I could sing along, which is a surprisingly tricky task, and was cruelly deprived of this opportunity…

I notice that Amadou & Mariam are playing the Big Chill next week – and so am I with Cassette, so hopefully they play it then and I can test my pigeon French and Malinese (if that’s the language of the chorus)