Japanese Extreme Evening at LCMF 2014

Russell Haswell and Pain Jerk at LCMF 2014
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2014. All Rights Reserved

Japanese Extreme evening 
(Second Home, Spitalfields and Oslo, Hackney. 29th May 2014; Third night of LCMF 2014. Review and drawing by Geoff Winston)

The Japanese Extreme evening in the London Contemporary Music Festival (LCMF) was a Magical Mystery Tour, not just metaphorically but also literally. Comprising contrasts, complementary threads and convergences, and a voyage across East London, its journey encompassed around 600 years - and a few miles.

At Second Home, off Brick Lane, where two dramatic stage and viewing areas had been created within a disused carpet factory, the voyage began with a Noh performance of refined concision that revealed rich, traditionally embedded layers beneath the outwardly stark surface.

In pre-concert discussion with three of the young performers, lauded as leading exponents of the art, based primarily in the historic city of Kyoto, it was explained that the contemporary interpretations of Noh, which combines theatre, music, poetry and dance forms, are taken at a slower pace than older forms, and although strictly one-off collaborations, Noh performances allow no improvisation.

Their performance thrived on a sense of tension and the perception of sound in space, through patterns of discrete percussive accents, vocalisations and chants. The graceful restraint of the dance routines expressing both mythical beauty and a martial theme, was well suited to the spare aesthetic of the venue.

Swiss-born, London-based percussionist Serge Vuille's virtuosic performance of Himmels Tür (Heaven's Door), the fourth 'hour' of Stockhausen's unfinished 24 part cycle, Klang, carried the baton of Noh's spiky, spartan aesthetic in to the twentyfirst century. Performed on a unit of specially fabricated, paneled wooden double doors and floor, Vuille used an array of custom-made beaters, and shoes with metal inserts (similar to those worn by tap dancers), to articulate the rhythmic and tonal demands of the composer's prescriptive graphic score with breathtaking athleticism. Attacking and embracing different areas of the door and floor with a combination of balletic grace, hesitant restraint and aggressive stamping, Vuille finally gained access through the doors to enter a darkened chamber (shortly followed by the small girl scripted in to the piece) from which he released cacophonous cymbal and siren sounds in a chilling endpiece.

Then came the swerve-ball of the evening - an actual charabanc ride to Hackney - unplanned, but essential after the organisers had found out that Noise artists, Kohei Gomi (Pain Jerk) and Russell Haswell, would contravene the local noise limitations. So, the whole audience was shipped out to the excellent Oslo venue in Hackney for an intense, invigorating immersion in layer upon layer of machine-related sonics conjured in tandem by the duo. Their mechanistic noise stream, born of sci-fi spaceships at take-off, crunching factory looms, charging steam trains, rattling machine guns, and groaning earth movers, was mashed up with threads of abstract noise and techno bass pulsing in and out of their 45 minute live mix. For all the raw surface heft, this was, as with the restraint of the Noh troupe, a construct of subtlety, with rapid build ups of multiple sounds that were capable of rustling the ribcage or dissolving to continue on their ways at lower velocities - all meticulously controlled from their mixing desks front stage - with affinities to Stockhausen that created a fitting circularity to the night's musical trip.


Second Home, Spitalfields
Udaka Tatsushige, Udaka Norishige, Diego Pellecchia - actors, chorus
Akai Yosuke - flute
Hayashi Yamato - shoulder drum
Moriyama Yasuyuki - hip drum
Maekawa Mitsunori - stick drum
Serge Vuille - percussion

Oslo, Hackney
Kohei Gome (Pain Jerk) - electronics
Russell Haswell - electronics

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