Saturday, August 03, 2013

New Complexity Car Park Massacre

Level of conviction in own genius: 7
Hours of creative activity achieved today: 0
Listening / Reading: Joanna Newsom on my underwater mp3 player whilst swimming my daily kilometre / Game. Of. Thrones.
Hair Day: chloriney

How lovely that I can saunter a mere mile down the hill in this August's delicious early evening balm, end up in London's current coolest endz, climb a few storeys of a manky car park and immerse myself in some serious-assed contemporary classical music. YES!
I've finally had some free evenings to visit the London Contemporary Music Festival's epic debut run, in league with art commissioners Bold Tendencies, on the penultimate (disused) tier of Peckham's seven-storey car park. Thursday's steamy evening saw two operatic monologues: the first, by the outrageously talented Kate Whitley, set a chunk from the play Glengarry Glenn Ross, a top film of course with Jack Lemmon going into a meltdown. Baritone Charles Rice did a marvellous job of commanding the whole audience as he moved amongst them. This was a compositional answer to Gerald Barry's (not to mixed up with England footer international Gareth Barry, as I once did to DJ Tim Winter. BLUSH.) La Plus Forte, which was fun, but somehow not as much as Kate's piece. I enjoyed seeing the young 'uns in the orchestra (ably conducted by Chris Stark, as these things often are) squinting hopelessly into the fierce sun firing straight at them.

But perhaps a contender for gig of the year so far was last night's cracking, crackling evening entitled 'New Complexity and Noise'. In some excellent programming, we saw a poor Yahama grand piano being well and truly bitch-slapped: first by Mark Knoop in two visceral pieces from Michael Finnissy's English Country Tunes; and then by Australian free improviser Anthony Pateras, in a rampantly exhilarating solo that was like a silent movie pianist who had gone COMPLETELY OUT OF HIS MIND. Ferocious pounding, fierce tremeloing up at the top end, and stark, rhythmic dark chords were flung at us like bricks. Brilliant. Sara Minelli did a great, spitty, flutey job of Ferneyhough's Cassandra's Dream. I mostly really enjoyed the interaction with the trains rattling past outside, especially in the trombone solo work by Aaron Cassidy: the train squeaks seemed to emerge from some of those quiet, squalling brass notes, or vice versa, and it was magical to see a couple of hundred faces, sitting on the concrete floor at the front like us, or on benches, or standing crowded around (some having strayed from the hipsterville central of Frank's bar on the top floor), listening intently for ten minutes to what sounded like a very sad, very drunk mosquito. Anthony Pateras also paired up with legendary experimental drummer Steve Noble for a couple of free sets, with whining modular synths or thunking prepared piano interacting with Steve's manic 'FUCK the washing up!'-style improvs with shallow snare drum, cymbals and singing bowls. Finally, there was a set from noise merchant Russell Haswell that had me immediately dashing for the far wall, away from the PA. I like noise, y'know; I just wish it didn't have to be so loud. Ha. Well, I think I'm allowed to scoff at the nonsense that is the pornification of volume, seeing as I've got only one working ear. Still, I took in another few minutes, enjoying the sight of Russell, hunched and fag in hand, lit by a single hanging naked lightbulb, with the dark shadows of the crowd looming all around him; as if he was soundtracking his own imminent death by mass zombie attack. As I left the car park, the retching rumblings and eviscerating squeaks sounded like the apocalypse had truly come to Peckham. Fab.
So congrats to chief contempo music young guns Aisha Orazbayeva (a juice labelmate), Nonclassical's own Sam Mackay, and 'cellist and Kammer Klang curator Lucy Railton! My end of South London is the best place to be in the world this weekend. Kudos!

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