Apiary Studios, London
Electro-acoustic sound urchins Louis Rice and Vasco Alves have been holding their monthly Hideous Porta get togethers for just over a year now. These nights are always interesting, featuring the best upcoming artists from across the experimental music spectrum and some more well-known names too.
Having coaxed some cash from Sound and Music earlier this year, they are expanding their activities to put on events that are more ambitious and bring over artists from outside the UK. This all-dayer, held in the shoebox labyrinth of the Apiary Studios in Hackney was the first event.
It was a game of two halves, the opening selection highlighting artists for whom restraint and focus are watchwords, and the latter chunk releasing some of those pent-up energies in an outburst of rumbles, drones and cacophony.
And it worked pretty well. The first slew of acts helped focus our ears and shutout the ongoing carnival of madness that is the Hackney Road on a Saturday afternoon. Daniel Jones’ detailed electronic investigations were an all-seeing eye zooming into the heart of the machine world, while Seymour Wright and Patrick Farmer’s duo balanced dissonant intensity with a Cageian playfulness, Wright’s backlit silhouette looming ominously out of the dark like some kind of avant-assassin.
Trumpeter Birgit Ulher impressed too, her trumpet clicks and pants augmented by electric motors implanted in mutes and sheets of metal attached to her horn. Tightly wound, her playing hinted at tumultuous energies kept in check only by sheer willpower.
With the beer flowing, things started to unravel – in a good way, obviously – with a typically eccentric set by veteran junkyard improvisers the Bohman Brothers acting as an informal bridge between the quieter and the louder parts of the evening. Starting with Jonathan Bohman wandering amidst the crowd stroking a polystyrene plastic case, this was an unhinged performance even by their standards. Fragmented poetry, contact mics attached to rusting tools, and even a duet on discarded umbrella spokes – all grist to the Bohman mill.
What better way for this unravelling to progress than with Spoils and Relics? Johnny Scarr, Gary Myles and Kieron Piercy, arranged in front of a table laden with broken-down hardware, tape machines and music-making kit, slowly assembled a muddy ooze of sound, darkly textured, abrasive and ominous.
If their set didn’t quite take off – possibly undercut by their efforts actually to enjoy themselves while performing – I wasn’t too dismayed. For all their playfulness, I find their music distinctly unsettling, like looking into an endless abyss. A locked-on set with all pistons firing may have been too much to bear.
The mind-blowing surprise of the evening was an astonishing and thoroughly astringent set of solo bagpipe improvisations by Paul Dunmall. Shouldering a range of traditional bagpipe-style instruments from around the world – some built to his own design from photographs or drawings – he blew up a polyphonic cataclysm of sound, before settling into a deep, cosmic drone for his last number.
It was left to Italian drone and noise maestros Lettera 22 to close the show, and they cooked up a storming finale, combining tapes (looped out from an old reel to reel machine round a microphone stand and back again, drones and pedals, creating a unique, hazy storm of sound. I was particularly taken by a deep, shimmering echo that underpinned the early part of their set, bringing a slow-motion, dub-like feeling to the piece.
Towards the end, their sound had transmuted the grinding clank and howl, like some infernal machine in the dead at night while mournful foghorns cry out in a near harbour, before everything was, finally, smothered in a harsh blanket of toothsome white noise.
For info about events coming up and more about the artists involved in this event, check Hideous Porta at http://www.hideousreplica.co.uk/HIDEOUS-PORTA
Thanks to Fabio Lugaro for the Bohman Brothers photo. It comes from a Bohmans show at Cafe Oto in 2013. Check out more of Fabio’s awesome photos of experimental music shows – and much more – on his Flickr page.