BLOCassembly 24th February 2006

Tony Kemplen, Joe Gilmore, Herve Perez, Lombutroupe, George Rogers, Bocman
BLOCassembly sound-based live art @ BLOCspace

Spending three hours in an icy cold BLOCspace is like an arctic endurance challenge. Fortunately there are cheap drinks to keep everyone’s spirits up, and I stick it out alongside the well-prepared audience, who are swaddled in giant parkas, seal-hunter hats and floppy mittens.

Tony Kemplen Siren SongOutside, four megaphones play Tony Kemplen’s “Siren Song”: a choral work based on an 8-tone siren bought at Poundland. Beautiful as well as funny, it kicks off with the “choir” chattering to one another for two minutes, a cheeky nod towards Janet Cardiff’s “Forty Part Motet” which proved a big hit at the Millennium Galleries two years ago.

Joe Gilmore's PowerbookInside the performance room, Joe Gilmore is first on. Actually, it’s Joe Gilmore’s PowerBook. His “generative performance for solo laptop computer” requires no human involvement, so the computer sits alone on a plinth at the front of the room. The ascetic set-up dissolves when Joe walks over to check that the laptop’s volume is turned up (it is). The music, when it finally comes, is a chain of sound effects: jump-cut bleeps and sweeps, based upon “aleatoric procedures”, a de-humanised version of John Zorn’s “Spillane”.

Herve PerezHerve Perez’s PowerBook is next on, this time with a human operator. Herve improvises an elemental set using banks of sampled sounds: collisions and close-encounters between stone, metal, wood, air, fire, water and computer.

MattButt DilemmaMattButt (Lombutroupe) has taught his PowerBook to meditate. For the first time tonight we hear human voices (cut-up poetry, a stoned-sounding giggly girl, a recorded telephone conversation). Shards of countryside photographs are projected on the wall in time with the sounds, and despite the artist’s claim to base his work on “the soulless CAD architecture of modern cityscapes”, these flourishes make the piece curiously poignant in contrast to the preceding acts.

George RogersGeorge Rogers’ digital son-et-lumière is accompanied by a censer trailing frankincense smoke. The cloying church-smell triggers further associations, while images and colours divert the senses. Throughout the night there has been a gradual movement from works focused on technology to works focused on humanity, and Rogers’ piece accentuates this shift.

BocmanFinally Neil Webb (Bocman) performs his own audio-visual pieces. A night-time train floats past in slo-mo; dreamlike soundscapes bear listeners back towards the womb. After three hours in sub-zero temperatures the audience, warmed by wine and soothed by sine waves, float away towards Matilda Street where they’re just in time to catch Sunburned Hand of The Man.

Sunburned Hand of the Man
This piece was originally written for Sandman Magazine, and is also published on the FAD blog.