SOUNDKitchen recently returned to Birmingham’s VIVID Projects space for another evening of experimental electronic music. Alan Brooker kicked off proceedings with a laptop-based set controlled partly by a lemon, which he sliced in half with a flourish in the first few minutes of his set. The connection between the citric input device and the resulting musical pitches and patterns was immediately discernible, which is not always the case with novel interfaces. While some go to great lengths to invent new controller paradigms and technologies only to make the same old beat-driven, consonant music with them, it was good to hear Brooker push the boat out into less-explored musical territory, his crinkling and crackling textures floating somewhere between the random and the ordered.
Kostis Kilymis worked with Sarah Hughes to make one of my favourite albums of 2012, “The Good Life”, and has recently been releasing some excellent music on his label Organised Music From Thessaloniki. At SOUNDKitchen he played a set involving field recordings made a few hours earlier at the nearby Bull Ring market, the clatter and holler of street commerce interlaced with subtle feedback. High-pitched pin-prick patterns gathered weight as the set developed, adding movement and structure without lapsing into conventional beat mode. The field recordings chosen may have been more or less contingent, being the first sonic environment of note between the train station and the venue; however, the jostling tension they gave to the set contrasts with other, more sedate works combining field recordings with pitched tones, such as Michael Pisaro’s “Transparent City”. A more agitative response to both sound and the social, perhaps.
Martin Clarke also used field recordings for his short solo set, which merged seamlessly into a duo with Monty Adkins’ ambient synths. Clarke drew on a wide range of wildlife and environmental sounds, all recorded with crystal clarity and woven together into a multi-textured sonic fabric. The chords and tones from Adkins’ laptop sometimes melded indiscernibly into the mix, and at other times came more to the fore; after a while Clarke faded his sounds out and allowed Adkins to continue with a warm ambience underpinned by quietly insistent rhythmic patterns.
Robert Curgenven was the only performer of the evening not using a laptop, and his collection of analogue and digital sources held a completely different weight and density to anything heard previously. His heavy bass tones generated through amplified feedback seemed tuned to work with the materiality and acoustics of the VIVID Projects space, suggesting that the weight of his music was not merely equipment-related but also relied on an astute grasp of how sound works. The somatic effects nonetheless felt integrated into a structure that was carefully contoured and inherently musical; at one point a recording of a pipe organ emerged as a referential demonstration of acoustic principles par excellence.
In all, it was another fine evening of music, made perhaps a little harder to engage with by the excessive heat after a scorching July day. An outdoor breather between sets looking out over Grand Union canal made everything ok.