AV Night

The Frakture Three/Film-makers/AHT-N
The Pilgrim, Pilgrim Street
20th May 2010

Reviewed by Richard Lewis

Tonight’s event upstairs at the Pilgrim is akin to a scaled down version of a 1960s style ‘happening’, where bands improvised to visuals projected onto screens. Tonight’s debut performance by Krautrock trio AHT-N is supplemented by a set from improvisatory music three-piece Frakture, and a selection of pieces from various film-makers.

The opening film, beamed onto the backdrop behind where the bands will perform is by Mandy Romero. The piece, shot mostly on Super-8 consists of footage of cork boards containing family photos, many of which include a blonde woman, interspersed with film of an anonymous man reclining on a bed. Overlaid with music, including the track ‘Anyone’ by cult indie band Joan as Police Woman, the film meanders on for almost quarter of an hour including brightly-lit footage of bridewells and public parks.

The unexpected ‘reveal’ at the end of the piece is to show who the blonde woman and the anonymous man is, by revealing it to be the film-maker Mandy Romero, a man in drag. There then follows a reading TS Eliot’s ‘Little Gidding’ accompanied by a black screen.

The following film, ‘Microstatic’ by Simon Gross, is shot in a style that resembles looking through the refracted glass of an interior door of a house. Its dappled surfaces are accompanied by glitchy electronic music similar to Aphex Twin’s output, the music seemingly self-composed for the film. It then switches to what appear to be microbes swarming in a petri dish, followed by an indistinct image which as it progresses becomes clear is looped footage of a man driving a car. Again shot with the same opaque lens effect as the first segment, the film ends with what sounds like the power trickling away.

Event curators the Frakture 3 play next. Using cello, acoustic guitar and amplified objects, they work off the visuals of the backing screen, the sound taking the form of the deep, cavernous clunking of escalators in a deserted train station, a noise generated by playing a string bow across a microphone. The bass booming from the Pilgrim’s jukebox downstairs almost adds a fourth element to the performance, at time the players seemingly using it as a metronome.

The theory coined by Adorno that all ‘improvised’ music is far from that, as musicians rely on the same previously devised routines and tricks, isn’t the case with the present group. The use of household objects as instruments, something Pink Floyd nearly released as an album in the late 1960s also features, as an amplified coat hanger, house keys and a coffee mug are utilised. The accompanying visuals, which now resemble meteors streaking towards a planet’s surface is matched by the thrum of the music which slowly builds to a crescendo before fading away.

The second half of the evening begins Clara Casian’s film ‘Untitled' - a colour feature that consists of cut up and looped footage of a woman talking straight to camera about the role of media in society. The repeated dialogue lingers over Lord John Reith’s famous assertion that the BBC was created ‘to inform, to educate and to entertain.’

Following on from is ‘Totale’ by John McLoughlin. Fanfared by doomy analogue synthesizers, the mostly monochrome film takes the Industrial Records motto of ‘Industrial music for Industrial People’ to a logical conclusion as it features electronic music accompanying footage of the periodic table, Stanlow Oil Refinery and various chemical works in and around Widnes. Whilst parts of the film which seep into colour almost resemble an off-beat music video in its more tuneful sections, other scenes look like footage from the BBC’s banned 1965 documentary ‘The War Room’, concerning what the public should do in the event of a nuclear attack.

Rounding off the evening is AHT-N playing improvised Krautrock to accompanying visuals. With a sound at points not far removed from Air’s 2001 ‘prog rock’ album ‘10,000 Hertz Legend’, the music is underpinned by a live bass guitar akin to the Giorgio Moroder synth pulse of the 1970s.

Motorik, despite the lack of a drummer, the main visual elements of the films around them are that of a shuttle parachuting back to earth and various chemical symbols that scroll rapidly across the screen. The Kraftwerk influence of the group diverts into almost Radiohead territory in parts, with sections sounding like the band's 2001 track ‘Idioteque’.

The quieter moments of the performance are backed with colours projected on to the screens, mostly reds and yellows, followed by cloud layers high in the atmosphere. Ebbing away quietly after thirty minutes, the quartet bring the evening to a close, a confident performance for a debut outing.

Website: www.frakture.org

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