Friday, November 25, 2016

For Whom the Bell Tolls

Daniel Löwenbrück & Marcellvs L Löwenbrück

Colour Out of Space - Brighton 18th, 19th, 20th November 2016.

W Mark Sutherland
Matthew P Hopkins
Esther Strauss
Anghard Davies & Lina Lapelyte
Clappy Shandy Dads
Cassis Cornuta
Matt Krefting

Anne Pajunen
Kent Tankred
Marja-leena Sillanpää
Johannes Bergmark
Daniel Rozenhall & Sten Backman

Daniel Löwenbrück & Marcellvs L Löwenbrück
Birgit Ulher
Olympic Shit Man
Phantom Chips
Steve Beresford, Tania Chen & Stewart Lee
Iancu Dumitrescu, Ana-Maria Avram w/ Yoni Silver, Alex Drool Yonovic, Cosmin Postolache

Can this be the only festival on the planet where the acts are announced by the ringing of a bell? A big hand clapper bell that scares the bejesus out of you if you're within five foot of it and all the more surreal for it being rung by one of several children who could be the offspring of the Nyoukis’s or the Langan’s. At one point the bell rings and its for a performance by the kids themselves who stick their heads up inside a display cabinet much to the amusement of those who thought they were on their way to see some Swedish performance art. Never have I seen kids so happy. I haven’t seen kids so happy outside a sweet shop with tenners in their hands. Something special must be happening.

Where to start with a three night bill that covers everything from Cage to avant noise to cassette muck to modern vocal composition? People ask me ‘are you writing this up’ and I say ‘do you see me taking notes?’ I don’t take notes. I’m not a reporter. I’m the one in the kebab shop at one in the morning, the one around the table on Sunday evening with Tyfus, Kreffting and Younger with his cellophaned arm and the Australian girl whose name I struggled with. I’m the one up the i360, that most recent piece of tourist engineering that allows you to rise 500ft in the air in a huge steel donut so that you can see Storm Angus making its way across the channel. And then up the road and quite by chance a midday performance art cum Fluxus action in Oxfam courtesy of Plastic Containers of Nothing where they’ve taken some boxes of donations destined for the skip and made something out of them. The pair of them don’t play records very well and tear up newspapers while cutting lumps out of their clothing. Their strange masks are masks of themselves, the stiff movements all too much for my recently just got down from 500 foot brain. And then to the Komedia for a film about Tony Conrad and when we get outside its dark and Storm Angus is upon us so to the pub for wine and beer and then eventually to the Sally Bennis and the days go like this and there’s a good crowd on Sunday people crammed into the Old Church to hear yodeling courtesy of Doreen Kutzke and Myriam Van Imschoot and theres Nick Cave in a pastel blue cashmere sweater down the front. Aine O’Dwyer starts off behind a blanket on the church organ and tumbles her way down until she’s hitting a piano and twirling around until she falls into one of the assembled and isn’t it hot for a church on a Sunday afternoon in November.

To be honest I hadn’t heard of around 80% of the line up and two of those on it that I really wanted to see were no longer playing. But I did see it all barring one act on Sunday night when for once the bell did not toll. You kind of got the feeling things were going in the right direction after the very first act in which W Mark Sutherland ended his short set with some Russian Futurist nonsense words which he carried on shouting until he was well outside the auditorium and probably at the bar ordering a drink. Of the five COOS I’ve attended this was by far the best and the Northern League of Kebab Konsumers, with whom I traveled down with, declared it their best too.

A lot of Friday was people sat at tables, which may not be the most exciting sight in the world but the Sally Bennis has chairs with which you can lounge on. Some people choose to flake out on the floor. One particularly keen attendee, who turned out to be Cassis Cornuta, stood stage front for everything until he got on stage himself and stood in front of his eight, yes eight, Korg synths which did burble and bobble and make sounds that for eight synths made you wonder if all of them were plugged in. Clappy Shandy Dads was a one off collaboration between Dylan Nyoukis, Julian Bradley, Luke Poot and Alex Drool all of them doing things with small things and making more noises than one of them on their own would have done. Anghard Davies and Lina Lapelyte stand back to back like shy swans making Pärt like noises out of violins, slowly turning around to face each other and then back to back again and if you know Arvo Pärt this is bliss, huge sweeps of the bow in cracked scraping arcs. Matt Krefting sends us all back to our penthouse suites with half an hour of sublime tape mulch produced on a pair of cassette players, one a cheap looking twin side by side job the other a 70’s flip top affair, one hand constantly on the twin concentrating, feeding tapes, the results a dreamy, decaying thirty minutes worth.

Saturday morning arrives and with it blue skies and a brisk wind. All this before Storm Angus hits. A particularly virulent kind of Scottish storm by the sounds of it which I can see from the top of the i360. It doesn’t look good and the takings are going to be down in steel donut land. There’s time for food and a glass of something before the Tony Conrad film at the Komedia which if you haven’t seen it I strongly recommend. The roofs leaking in which doesn’t augur well and sure enough its hammering it down upon exit. At the Sally Bennis there are brave groups of smokers embracing the elements and rumour has it that Leif Elggren has taped a corner off and claimed it as his own.

Saturday night is Fylkingen night and Kent Tankred manages to fry the bottom end of the much improved Sally Bennis PA with his homemade circuitry. Tankred looks around from his small table in search of the PA guy, he has a look that must be the nearest thing that Sweden has to panic but it still sounds good to these ears and from one Bald Head of Noise the accolade of the best performance so far. There’s noises and computer generated images that make you feel like you’re disappearing down an never ending tunnel courtesy of Daniel Rozenhall and Stan Backman. KOEFF is Johanna Rosenqvist with her Henry vacuum cleaner and masked vocals, nearly PE but with a much softer edge. WOL are Wenche Tankred and Lovisa Johansson who enter the Bennis floor with armfuls of two inch [50cm Sweden] Sellotape which they carefully build towers with before forming a circle and making bunches of flowers with them, miles and miles of the stuff peeled off. Marja-leena Sillanpää sets up a boxy looking multi channel radio, flicks it to shortwave and lets go a mighty bottom end roar that wouldn’t have looked out of place at a noise gig. She stands stage back and admires her work letting the equipment perform unaided. For sheer theatrics Johannes Bergmark has us all open jawed, firstly by swallowing a contact mic and shortly after it popping candy and a can of fizzy drink and then remarkably, by strapping himself into a rig of his own making that sees him suspended from the ceiling by two taught wires with two other coming from his contraption to his legs which he rides like stirrups, flexing his knees to get them tight and then slack, then stroking them with bows and then hitting them with sticks, first his leg wires and then his ceiling wires letting go huge DONGS and then high pitched scrapes. Tonight we leave for Sweden.

Johannes Bergmark

Sunday morning brings with it an exhibition by Stephen Cornford at the Phoenix and after it a climb up the north face of the Eiger or Southover Street, as the locals call it, for Sunday lunch and more wine, about twenty of us in some kind of two sided last supper in the upstairs room of the Southover itself. Cornford as last seen down the Wharf Chambers with some TV set cross channel feedback abuse, here with a wall of half empty PC frames from which optical drives spit out three inch CDR’s and spirals of copper wire. An array of CD Walkman’s have misfiring shards of CD disc spinning in them, some have cameras  peering down on them which show whats happening in close up on a series of ceiling mounted monitors. In the back there’s a Blood Stereo exhibit but the monitors busted so we trail off instead.

After the pub we tumble down the hill and into the Old Church for the yodeling and piano bashing and then to another pub and then for the last time to the Sally Bennis where Daniel Löwenbrück & Marcellvs L terrify us with deafening pig squeals, strobe lightning and hand powered air raid sirens before they finally fill the venue with dry ice setting off the smoke alarm in the process. Phantom Chips has the audience pulling her strings and making sounds with them, I’m sure they’re not strings and I’m sure she had a word for them [Tara Pattenden that is] but they make wonderful electronic zinging sounds. She tries to get on stage but loses her connections. She’s wearing what looks like a Technicolor octopus around her waist and when she squeezes its legs it makes a sound. Or sounds. Lots of sounds. All of them beetling and buzzing. Stewart Lee, Tania Chen and Steve Beresford perform Cage’s ‘Indeterminacy’ with Lee making sure Chen gets her own round of applause seeing as how she’s come all the way from San Fransisco. Its the first time I’ve heard Indeterminacy and Lee’s mundane talking voice is perfectly suited to the task of reading out the fourty [randomly picked by an audience member] cards that contain Cage’s sometimes banal observations. Beresford plays his novelty electric guitar toys, drops things on a huge drum, Chen knocks ping pong balls off the table. A piano is hammered. Cage would no doubt have approved. Sitting between the high art of Cage and Dumitrescu lies the murky world of Olympic Shit Man. A rare outing for the now cross channel project and to cries of ‘smile’ the pair take us on a thirty minute electro-acoustic improv session built around Andy Bolus’s tampered with EMS synth boxes and Mark Durgan’s well oiled noise gadgets. Those who were expecting a knock about noise fest were disappointed but not me. Then at around 11pm comes Dumitrescu and Ana-Maria Avram and the Hyperion Ensemble and after a short piece featuring huge drums and a the longest wind instrument I’ve ever seen Avram sits at the side of the stage, legs crossed in thigh high boots singing, or to be more precise vocalising while Dumitrescu alters her output from the mixing desk, leaning over it like he’s trying to keep it all for himself, concentration levels on max, peering out of the top of his eyes on Avram. There was something that followed but my concentration levels were waning.   

Constant Linear Velocity / Stephen Cornford

At the nights end I ventured for the final time into the cold and rain lashed November night. A familiar kebab shop across the flooded road became a beacon of light and life. Then up and past the Prince Albert, turn left at the top by the train station and bed. I left some behind to dine once more on that slowly revolving column of forced meats, to once more rest their weary bottoms on the busted furniture that passes for indoor eating area, to say their goodbyes to two now familiar fast food vendors. Turning up the temperature in my hotel room I flaked out. I’d not read my paper, not done the crosser, my hangover was singular and slight and I’d seen everything at the Bennis except Birgit Ulher. A memorable weekend all round.

Plastic Containers of Nothing
Storm Angus

So this Brain Turner gets in touch, says he DJ'd all weekend at COOS and who am I to argue? Can't say I saw him spinning his platters. Maybe he was in a room somewhere with a coffee and a packet of Chesterfields doing the Nightfly cover thing? I remember hearing music between sets but as I wasn't in the performance space that much between sets explains why this has passed me by somewhat. But help is at hand; Brian has gone and recorded some of his DJ'ing [including a track by David Sylvian which makes it worth seeking out for that alone] along with live sets from Clappy Shandy Dads, Matt Krefting, Matthew P Hopkins and Daniel Lowenbruck/Marcellus L. This also gives you the excuse, not that you need one, to spend some serious quality time with one of the best radio stations on the planet.  

Many thanks to @zanntone for the Bergmark image.

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