Review: Lucky Dragons plus John Chantler at the Purcell Room

Lucky Dragons at the Purcell Room, February 2014
Drawing by Geoffrey Winston. © 2014. All Rights Reserved

Lucky Dragons and John Chantler
(Purcell Room, 8th February 2014; review and drawings by Geoff Winston)

Sarah Rara (left, above) and Luke Fischbeck (right) have taken their electronic-acoustic venture, Lucky Dragons, in to its fifteenth year and, in addition to getting on for 20 albums, have spawned a range of fascinating art and self-publishing projects. Theirs was an elegant, well-crafted presentation and performance which was capable of loitering in comfortable, meditative areas, yet hovered on the edges of abrasion.

To a backdrop of a projected hard-edge black and white repeat pattern they sat either side of a table on which rested laptops and electronic devices, Rara, clad in minimalist grey, to the left and Fischbeck to the right. Loops and repeats were carefully mobilised, overlaid and took on lightly trance-danceable rhythms which were allowed to become increasingly invasive.

The concert took on an additional dimension when Rara took up the mic, and her powerful voice dominated the electronics. Both raw and sampled, merging with Fischbeck's organ timbres, her distinctive vocals were the vehicle for poetic and alliterative phrases, drawing on the ethereality of Laurie Anderson and the strength of Patti Smith.

There was a sense of participating in an architectural game when, with Rara kneeling by the table, the duo manipulated the geometry of the screen image by hand manoeuvres on the desk-located tablet.

The end of the set, after only 50 minutes, had a somewhat inconclusive feel to it. Lucky Dragons seemed to have sidestepped, on this occasion, their much-vaunted inclusive approach to audience interaction and the close engagement that may have been anticipated.

Nonetheless we had experienced a unique slice of concentrated Lucky Dragons, a structured excursion in to the realms of electronica charted by Terry Riley and Philip Glass with a dash of Jon Hassell's Dream Theory thrown in.

John Chantler at the Purcell Room, February 2014
Drawing by Geoffrey Winston. © 2014. All Rights Reserved

As support, John Chantler, also well-known to Londoners as one of the driving forces behind Cafe Oto, turned in an immersive, improvised electronics set on his Purcell Room debut. With something of the qualities of the Winter Olympics snowboarding - a measured, technical discipline crossed with unpredictable flourishes of flair and changes in momentum, Chantler built up a heady ice-storm with a spacious, textured slipstream.

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