S&H Concert Review
Zero plus One and Millions. South London
Gallery, Peckham ,. 28 November 2000
This was an evening that perhaps unintentionally asked the question: is art over now? Is the idea of aesthetic organisation something that has had its day? I say this because most of the work we saw and heard tonight was not only shapeless but unashamed of it. It espoused a kind of pseudo-aesthetic of shapelessness...
What you get with Furt, who opened the evening as a duo, is a continuous unlimited blurt of constantly changing highly detailed sounds that very quickly add up to nothing. Millions of cleanly sliced fragments mass up to produce a holistic texture within which the possibility of difference and therefore of value is almost strangled at birth. In so far as Furt has a sound atall it's a by-product of this approach, something like speeded up Zappa in his referencing Boulez mode: always that horrible marimba-precision even when accelerated to a blur. I feel that Barrett and Obermeyer (who are both also composers) are not clear about what this project is really addressing. The content of the music is clearly not any kind of compositional form, yet neither is it the interaction between the players the texture is simply too continuous.
We then had the first of three animation-sound collaborations, which were all characterised by a kind of drifting unfocussed sensibility: you had the feeling of someone playing around with something, oh, I wonder what happens if I push it this way for a bit; the infantility underscored by the curiously colourless colours that all seemed to come from the catalogue of some home decorating store.
Nostalgie, a piece for solo conductor by Schnebel, got an effective performance from Mikel Toms. The piece could have been so awful that it began on a carpet of fear and the successive relief of this fear became an important motor for the effect of the piece. After the interval, Mikel Toms also read a list of names against and partly overwhelmed by further electronic sound from Willcock: a fey little affair that again could have been much worse.
A mildly entertaining little piece on the vacuity of net life followed. A wasted opportunity: what we needed was an accurate and no-holds-barred debunking of the attitudes of digital multi-media artists. The third Greaves-Willcock collaboration which followed this, stuck exactly to the formula of the other two. Much was made of the game of turning the thing on and off just to make quite sure we grasped the point that the artists didn't assume responsibility for their own work.
The evening ended with a quartet of Furt with Phil Marks on drums and Rex Casswell on guitar. The rhythmic striation introduced by the acoustic percussion nudged the team towards a far more phrased language than that of the opening duo set. There was still a sense of Barrett and Obermeyer not quite being in the right space, being too bound up with their machines for an absolute alertness to the collective result. But things did finally get moving and even acquire some kind of shape.
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