Joby Burgess - percussion
Matthew Fairclough - sound design
Kathy Hinde - visuals
The Capstone Theatre
6th February 2014

Reviewed by Joe Coventry

Powerplant are a collective that brings together virtuoso percussion, tailored video backdrops and looped electronic sounds. On stage tonight the limelight fell only on Joby Burgess, but the backdrop visuals and electronic soundscape where equally as striking.

The closely packed performance space, replete with drum set, xylosynth, (a souped up xylophone), and assorted electronica awaited the seasoned and well travelled recording artist as the lights dimmed on an anticipatory crowd of all ages, which half-filled the auditorium.

First up was Conlon Nancarrow's 'Piece for Tape (for Percussion'), in an arrangement by Dominic Murcott. A good piece to get the hands going and the loops whirring. Daguerrotype horses gaits on the screen set the rhythm for drums and xylosynth.

The shift to Venevulan Javier Alvarez's inspired electro-taping of Mexican and Latin American cultures, saw a performance for improvisatory maracas and oil drum, the pre-recorded sounds invoking pan-pipes above an increasingly dark miasmal drift, but it came alright at the end with some blue sky calypso shaking.

A glass of Shiraz in the lounge awaited after Gabriel Prokoviev's 28 minute 'Import/Export -suite for global junk'. In seven parts for oil drum, wooden pallette, plastic bags, fizzy lemonade drink bottles and associated software, it was a rollercoaster ride of western industrial progress.

The backdrop video, capturing the rampant exploitation of the earth's natural resources, was all oil rigs, saw mills, bulging cargo holds, land abuse and ethnic manual labour striving under the ambivalence of capitalism's inexorable advances.

The accompanying detritus of plastic bags, the ultimate non bio-degradable product besides a nuclear reactor's spent uranium fuel, or marching production lines of glass or plastic bottles filled the screen. The soloist's manual dexterity of banging, scratching or chinking, chimed above the telling programmed noises.

A bit of fun after the interval came with Steve Reich's 'My Name Is!' Here, using computer processing equipment, the audience's shouted responses were recorded, edited and mixed as the piece developed - at the end it sounded like a communal 'Jess'!

Matthew Fairclough's 'The Boom and the Bap' was all drums, gongs and symbols - and the Chinese rack sounding xylosynth's metronomic showmanship presaged a carefree throwing away of the sticks at the end.

A fascinating evening approached its conclusion with Max de Wardener's trio of short pieces '24 Lies A Second', (also the name of the group's latest album), 'Im Dorfe' and 'Until My Blood Is Pure'. More dystopian visions of Chernobyl-esque conflagration backed the keyboard and vibes before an electro-shocked finale.

Finally, a classic Kraftwerk coda, 'Pocket Calculator' brought proceedings to a close. It had been an interesting and enjoyable evening.

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