Live Review:

Schneider Kacirek
John McEntire

Under the green and blue lights, Schneider Kacirek stepped up to the stage and got things started. It was their first live show in London. As a church and as a music venue, St John’s at Hackney is a wonderfully impressive building. The acoustics and the natural environment seem to favour ambient and electronic music in particular (I saw Stars of the Lid, Anna Rose Carter and Roly Porter there three years ago).

Stefan Schneider and Sven Kacirek blend two very different elements: electronics and live percussion. Inspired by Kenyan rhythms, intricate patterns were gradually introduced. The natural, ancient sound of the drums danced alongside the futuristic electronic elements. Wobbling basslines and light pads converged in what was a minimal set. The electronics glitched and stuttered as they moved along. One by one, new rhythms entered. The use of shakers produced different rhythmic intervals and helped to move the music along. It swayed lightly. Slow, staccato beats punctured the electronic machinery. ‘Kenyan Krautronics’ is a perfect description for the duo’s music. Almost skipping at times, the music’s beats were light and beautifully syncopated, playing in time, layer upon layer, in what was a polyrhythmic, cool cocktail of electronic sound. But these beats were playful, too. A thick, rumbling bass entered and disappeared, entered and disappeared…

It was cool and darkly efficient music. A layer of static cocooned itself inside the music. The deep electronics contrasted well with the light percussion that echoed outwards from the other side of the stage. They manipulated the music in one flowing set. Thumping out into the cavernous, high spaces of the church, with Schneider on the left and Kacirek on the right, the music was a dense jungle of minimalist sound. Through the foliage, one rhythmic element appeared, and another was later added. On top of that, an extra tap or pop peeked through. And from there the track was layered. Tweaking the controls, the melodically shy music continued on, unrelenting in its machinations. It was only close to the end of the set that a synth made an appearance. The natural timbre of the stick against the side of the drumhead helped to bring a distinctive edge to the sound, shaping it like a sculptor.

John McEntire (Tortoise) gave a high energy performance as he brought his brand new solo material to the stage. His warm and extremely colourful synths had something of the past about them, a rosy remembrance of the late 70’s and early 80’s, of Krautrock’s foundations, but they also looked to the future and beyond. The new wave synths were coupled with some loud, live drumming. There’s only so much you can do when you have two sticks in your hands, so McEntire’s tracks were fed through a laptop as he played the rhythms over the top. The music itself was really interesting. In places experimental, the electronic synths were toasted in their repetitive mainframe, with a little bit of hauntology on the side.

And then there was a surprise: a highly dissonant sequence of shrill notes – probably the two most dissonant notes in existence – that then gave way to a thumping, slow and yet brutal beat. A different pitch and a different tempo – a new phrase entirely – saw a dramatic change in rhythm. This was heavy music, stomping its hooves in fury. After that, slower, radiant melodies came in from the cold, and his solo material contains some eclectic, colourful music indeed. His solo work had some interesting aspects to it, and his sound was all wrapped up in a bright rainbow. It had all the sweeping drama of post-rock without the guitars, and the high energy percussion provided a solid and noticeable contrast to the last set.

Up next was the main artist: Loscil. Scott Morgan was the man the audience had been waiting for. A white orb flickered into life on the screen above and behind him. Endless. Unseeing. Elemental and tonally dark, the music came out shyly, quietly and slowly. Wispy clouds passed over the orb, eclipsing it, turning the day to night. A beach drained of its colour came into view, and the rhythmic undercurrents were carried out into the murky depths of the sea. Suddenly, the circle blackened and the roar of the sea unleashed its fury. A throbbing bass rode the crest of a wave. It reached its high point and then came crashing down, producing a seismic shock as it landed. It shook the entire room. Images rolled, rolled, rolled along on the currents of the ambient sea. The grey and gloomy waves rocked back and forth as the music sailed away, and the black and white images switched depending on the sequence in the sound. The emergence and subsidence of a heavy bass squelched heavily against the sides of the lighter notes, but they reappeared as the set neared its end.

There’s always been a dark intensity to Loscil’s music, the silent debris of a shipwreck, and that’s especially true in a live environment. A beautiful, easy ebb and flow resulted in hypnotizing music. A reoccurring, soft drone led the audience back to the beginning. The bass eventually pulsated in and out, crashing and pushing forward before it eventually faded away. The music had come full circle.

Nov 28, 2015 – Wroclaw, PL, Festiwal Ambientalny
Nov 27, 2015 – Berlin, DE, Tiefgrund
Nov 23, 2015 – Salford, UK, The Eagle Inn
Nov 22, 2015 – Glasgow, UK, The Glad Cafe
Dec 4, 2015 – Verona, IT, Interzona
Dec 3, 2015 – Lausanne, CH, Le Bourg
Dec 2, 2015 – Bratislava, SK, Fuga / Forum Absurdum
Dec 1, 2015 – Prague, CZ, Vila

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