Unsound Adelaide Review 2014-Lee Gamble, Cut Hands, Morton Subotnik, Nurse With Wound

After the organised cinematic elegance of Snowtown: Live & Stars of the Lid in rarefied surrounds on the first night, it is a nice contrast to return to the stone & ferrous girder Queens Theatre amongst a motley assortment of our experimental music devotees. Go read Adelaide Festival Director David Sefton’s interview with ABC – I really like this quote:  “There is a definite ‘people coming out of their bedroom’ quality to it. Though I totally empathise – I am one of those people.”  David, there is little doubt you are.

First up producer Lee Gamble enveloped us in a blanket of deep space ambience, while visions of neuronal & synaptic firing illuminated the back drop.  But not satisfied to leave us in a drone driven purgatory, a subtle beat driven subharmony evolves and grows until we find our own physicality unconsciously moving to vaguely gabba-esque rhythms, maybe even some drum & debased if you will. There was an impressive range of creativity here that painted not only in the palette of modern danceable avant-garde but seemed to draw on almost militant elements I associate with the Swedish dark ambient-industrial scene of the late 1990’s.

Cut Hands is the latest brainchild of William Bennett of old school industrial pioneers “Whitehouse” fame.  Immediately the stylistic cues reminded me of the playfulness of Yello (with considerably less Geneva beige) bouncing against flashes of more melancholic Dead Can Dance tribal renderings.  Powerful, danceable rhythms from Haiti, Cuba & Africa with stygian noisescapes tapping into something primal and chthonic.  I need to stress, it is definitely its own thing, it is not a simple recasting of traditional form.   But it is probably the first time I have heard a serious considered electronic exploration of Vodoun polyrhythms since Rodney Orpheus’s side project Sun God. There is a sentiment that William to an extent is experimenting not only with the music, but with the listener and/or dancer. Our Western brains try to process rhythms one way, and sometimes our bodies process them another way. Compelling stuff.

Morton Subotnik , being the only octogenarian on the bill, is as “old skool” as you are going to get given his pioneering work in electronic music in the late 1960’s.  Organic and analogue, his up front unapologetic minimalist opening in Silver Apples of the Moon forced you to shut up and listen, which people did. He may have worked sans drums, but the kids seemed to get it – picking up on the subliminal rhythms, an almost invisible waltz to the ear.  He built his sonic creations in layers, expertly sound sculpturing and revelling in the lux/nox interfaces. The applause he received was only confirmation to me that those attending are not looking for the next wave of dance music, but are happy to look backwards and understand the genesis.

Finally Nurse With Wound addressed us all with an unusual musical violence. Not brutal and physical, but more like psychological stress positions. Implosions of sound, internalised, almost vascular in their journey. Stephen Stapleton promised the possibility of unforseen collaborators on the night and that came in the form of Hungarian vocalist Attila Csihar who is here for other performances within the Adelaide Festival.  His delivery of improvised echolalic screeches, intonations and electronically processed vocalisations added fuel to the screened backing film of incendiary near-snuff. The musical metastasis before us differed from some of the otherwise highly programmed acts previously in Unsound in that there was room allowed for error. Being principally improvised means that sometimes a musical passage was but a transition to moments of brilliance when the group telepathy was truly onto something – whether that be in the territory of deep drone or unexpected beat-monologue led guitar assaults in blue.

If the two Unsound Festivals to date are but scratching the surface of avant-garde musical ingenuity, then I say it is time to dig in the fingernails and draw blood with a third year.

Jonathan Mar 10th 2014 12:44 am Events,Music,People,Reviews No Comments yet Trackback URI

Comments are closed.