Stench VI

Early in the evening Star Trek: Yoyager was on TV. B’elanna says to Seven something along the lines of ‘You have to watch the warp coil like a hawk, it can be unpredictable’. Seven says it’s only a propulsion device. B’elanna says ‘But it has a mind and personality of its own.’
Cut to later in the evening at The Art Organisation, Leicester. The stage has a couple of laptops and a pile of repurposed circuit boards stripped out from discarded electronic kit. It’s impossible to tell which sounds are sampled, which are generated from scrapped and modified circuitry. It looks like this is indeed a pile of junk that has a mind and personality of its own, and the performers are interacting with that mind and personality as much as controlling it. The overall effect varies from ethereal birdsong to heavy driving industrial beats.
From an audience perspective it looks like chaos theory at work. A performer gently tweaks a knob and whatever input that adds to the mix (which might be a signal controlling another sound) has the effect of a butterfly that beats its wings and whips up a hurricane.
It’s an acquired taste, but if you’ve ever gone to sleep with the radio on and woken up sometime in the middle of the night to find the signal has drifted, there’s a beat created by phasing between two stations and loops of static and interference – and found that it’s weird in an interesting way – you’ll have the idea. It’s almost trancelike, and the music of dreams. My dreams anyway, and presumably those of the respectably large audience.
At the end of the evening, Kanta Horio did some intimate, amusing and fascinating stuff on a very small scale with old computer fans, electromagnets making ball bearings jump about in little boxes, springs used as reverb units and suchlike. This is a style of performance that seems quirky, distinctive, unique.
There seems to be an increasing interest in this kind of music. Perhaps some people have come to it from the contemporary industrial music scene, some from looking back at the origins of it in the more or less experimental work of groups such as Einsturzende Neubauten, and some from the (now rather dated) avant-garde of Stockhausen. Perhaps some have just latched on to the aesthetic of recycling old stuff to make new and interesting stuff, the way that people like Survival Research Labs have done for redundant military equipment that gets re-made into performing robots. But whatever the sources and influences, the effects are remarkable.
Stench appears to be a collective of 30-plus people (though only a handful were involved in last night’s performance). It describes itself as an ‘artist-led forum for innovative performance, experimental music and digital arts … open to anyone who is interested in being involved in creative projects that go beyond the mainstream’. They will be performing again in April and August, and apparently are running workshops over the summer.
Read more at Stench’s pineapster page.

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