I still wonder about what the qualitative differences between this form of entertainment and, say, watching a string quartet are; or watching someone knocking out a Buxtehude piece on an organ.
Sometimes there are gigs with lads behind laptops, and then there are gigs with lads behind laptops. This, Fabio Orsi and Sindre Bjerga at Qbus club in Leiden, was one of the latter, if you catch my drift.
Even so, I often wonder about these sorts of nights. I often wonder about the absurdity of a room full of earnest and intelligent people looking at someone tapping on a computer, all in the name of an inspiring noise. It still feels weird. It still feels as if something needs to be nailed. Add visuals? Indulge in daft actions or other incorporate elements of theatre? Who knows? I still wonder about what the qualitative differences between this form of entertainment and, say, watching a string quartet are; or watching someone knocking out a Buxtehude piece on an organ. Don’t these earlier musical manifestations display the same sort of distance between audience, and performer? If so, why do “we” still sometimes feel that using a PC is in some way cheating? Of course, it isn’t but “we” can’t be sure. Then there’s the “personal” bit. Who or what is speaking? Where is the message we hear coming from? On the one hand this kind of music, electronic/glitchcore/ambient experimental; (call it what you want), needs some sort of focus otherwise you could sit through a whole host of LPs that ostensibly carry the same message, however brilliant or beautiful. You’d think they need that spark of the physical, of the visual to get the message across, to set them in a context that adds a dimension or some form of comprehension. But there again, why can’t we work this out ourselves? Why do we need a performance to enjoy it all?
Anyway. As I said this gig was one of the latter. One of the better. One where all these sorts of doubts faded away in a broadly brushed wash of enjoyment. There were elements of the human too, in both performances, albeit vastly different takes on what is needed to set up a gig. These performances transcended any lingering doubts.
Even though there was a sparse crowd out, things seemed cosy at Qbus; the sort of crowd that had turned out was appreciative, informed and happy to go along with matters. It’s a shame that initially everyone sat at the back, but Qbus’s dance floor is laid out in such a way that when there’s a quiet night, people tend to retreat to the back wall away from the stage, in an attempt to deflect any attention away from themselves. Or maybe the punters here just like sitting down a lot. It is weird.
First we had Sindre Bjerga who took a very messy, organic approach to making his music. Building up a rich, throbbing hum of the sound was all very well and enjoyable. What was more remarkable was the slapdash nature of the gig. Things “seemed” to go wrong regularly; instruments and props fell over, circuits were cut, and awkward silences intervened with a sort of uncaring bumptiousness. It was akin to watching someone on a remote Artic outpost try to make contact with the outside world, only for the signal to repeatedly break down, or the mast to topple over, or for something random to intervene; like a penguin electrocuting itself on an antennae. After a while of this charming randomness, we got another element. The lad jumped off the stage, and started to throw some copper discs about. Not content with giving a sort of spatial awareness to his music he then proceeded to give the whole thing some human form, by the act of tying magnetic tape to people’s ankles, including your gallant correspondent’s. Then, just as matters started to get trippy, things stopped. Now that was refreshing.
Drama of another sort was round the corner. The lights were set out, chairs were brought forward into the dance floor for the audience to sit on (no hiding allowed), and Fabio Orsi ascended the stage, bathed in a white light emanating from his Macbook. It is difficult to say what happened next, if only because the music was so soothing, so rich in texture and tone that it had the effect of creating a sort of temporary sensory deprivation tank into which we all slipped. It was one of those brilliant, hypnotic, wholly enveloping experiences that is actually impossible to write about. The whole gig felt as if it lasted 10 minutes – and that it was on for a good 30 gives some indication of the state of my senses. Akin to some deep pastoral experience, (imagine being buried under Silbury hill in the full regalia of a Bronze Age chieftan), this was a music that was there to heal, to calm. After this I had to get out; duty called elsewhere, but akin to Odysseus being lulled by Callypso, there was the sense that hanging about for too long could be psychically dangerous. I mean, I could still be sat there… Think of that. A great night.