Capstone Theatre, Liverpool
12th September 2013

Reviewed by Joe Coventry

Slide Show

Masquerading behind the acronym, MANTIS (Manchester Theatre in Sound), The 8th Biennial International Conference on Music Since 1900 decamped on Capstone's campus. The concert was a showcase of recent electro acoustic music. With not much knowledge of what to expect it could have been an unnerving night in this academic whirl. It was certainly different.

Scheduled in two sixty minute segments, the programme was confusing in that only the performers in the first half had their names against what was to be played. If playing is the right word?

Eyes front, the viewer was confronted by an array of loudspeakers spaced across the arena, all, looming like emus on stalks; 31 visible, but actually 35 in total. A gamble then on where to sit. Everyone opted to sit behind the artist, who was situated in the centre of the middle row of the hall, along with the lap top computer and mixing desk tools of modus operandi.

The lights dimmed and an idiosyncratic mix of incremental reverberations, timbral nuancing and strange crescendos or dimunitions of sound filled the darkness. It was easier to 'watch' with the 'mind's eye', rather than using normal means, at what was being conjured up.

Fictitious or reality represented themes past, present, or future were at the forefront of sound textures from Nikos Stavropoulus in Granatum. Felipe Ontondo was involved in highlighting facets of gamelan inspired pulse or micro-rhythmic development in Irama. Aspects of the music being accessed or processed in different ways by exploring landscape and an individual's small place in it exercised Rose Dodd in Island Music. John Nicols III's dream inspired Amovi Alaan music referenced the spiritual and powers of the unconscious or Superconscious in the music.

Heady stuff.

So what to make of it all?

By the interval, dystopian visions of alien environments, under water gurgling and storm clouded canvases interspersed with recognisable human or natural world sounds had filled the room.

The capacity and sophistication of snythesizer noise generation technology is so awesome these days that it seems possible to generate a film score from the console; thoughts mulled over with a glass of red wine in the interval.

The second half was to be more of the same. It came and went,(as did some of the audience), and not knowing who was on or what was being offered up for aural arousal, I too departed at an appropriate interval for the less cerebral world outside.

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