...a unity of eyes and firelight...

Old Apparatus

In Live Reviews, Music on April 26, 2011 at 6:08 pm

Saturday, 23 April 2011

ICA, London

Old Apparatus are an audio-visual collective from East London.  Their set was one part of a two day event at the ICA, exploring The Dying Artist as its brief.  Friday was subtitled Illness, while Old Apparatus played on Saturday, subtitled Death.

The set began with deep, enveloping, almost comforting beats.  One was drawn in, cosseted to a digitally meditative state, aurally reminded of analogue reality only by distortion and samples. Meanwhile, our visual input was a sort of soft focus homage to life, grounded in the physicality of medical imaging – angiograms, x-rays, electron microscopy.  These were real physical processes, it was reality, but so far removed from how we usually experience it, that it seemed other-worldly.  Presented with the evidence of life – blood flowing through vessels, food through an oesophagus, cells mitoting – we were somehow distanced from our own.  This was transcendence through corporeality.

Until we were jilted by a change of tone.  Abstract patterns replaced medical images; I was reminded of death through the absence of life.  At this point, the beat also began to explore new rhythms; disturbed, disturbing.  Any sense of an easy life, an easy death, or even an easy trip through the marijuana-soaked soundscapes of post dubstep began to evaporate.

Finally, we witnessed a kind of rebirth, as the images presented changed again.  We were now seeing what looked like swirling worlds, planets.  On closer inspection they were abstract patterns seen through geometric windows, perfect circles of eddying colour surrounded by black.  Disorderedly ordered, and frighteningly so.  One image in particular, of hundreds of equilateral triangles in one big circle seemed almost Satanic.  These images would emerge for a few seconds before fading away again, they appeared like momentary glimpses of what may come after life: unpredictable, uncontrollable, essentially unknowable.  Possibly impossible.

Clearly, I’m allowing myself to get carried away here.  And this was the strength of the music – it allowed and encouraged an internal journey.  There was an almost religious nature to it, evocative but never dreamy, never self-indulgent.  Like the images, the music was grounded in the physical and the real, which made it all the more affecting.

Death can invoke all sorts of feelings and thoughts, not all of which are unpleasant.  This was an immersion which drew us in with viscous, almost cloying beats before building us up to an original contemplation of death that was dark, uncomfortable and tense.

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