Twas a friend who recommended unto me this concert, declaring Fennesz to be “really beautiful big sounding electronicy/classical loveliness” – well alright then.
Spent yesterday listening to a bunch of Fennesz and Grouper on Spotify (prompting this tweet) for some reason under the impression that they were the same person recording under two different names. Goodness knows from whence that impression came for I was soon to learn very different.
The venue was St Giles-in-the-Fields, a CoE church which hosts many a lunchtime chamber recital, though not frequently used for more amplified affairs. Strangely, many seats had no view of the stage area, a point underlined by the constantly traipsing nature of later arrivals, thankfully this was music one only need listen to. Eyes were not important.
First on the bill were the delightfully named Natural Snow Buildings – a French duo who filled the church with beautifully languid melodies over textural guitar and effects drones. I was absolutely locked in. Unfortunately I can’t seem to find anything around to buy (though nicked an mp3 from Phoning it in.
Grouper came to the stage next, taking a seat behind a mic with a guitar and a thousand effects pedals, tapes and other bits by her feet. She filled the space with dreamlike underwater music, with intense and very loud harmonics enveloping the congregation. Like her recorded output, her voice is filtered, placed within rather than over the music and it was absolutely beautiful. Occasionally a projector would throw simple white light shapes above her, across the stained glass over the altar.
Fennesz took to the stage last and took little time to start rolling out the soundscapes. Loud rumbling bass, chorused, rising distortion beds and slicing cuts of treble filled the church. I went downstairs and was struck by the completely different quality of the sound – the high harmonics almost disappeared, replaced by slowly pulverising bass. As a piece of sound design I thought it was great, but as music it left me largely unmoved. Suddenly, about 40 minutes into the performance, as the bass was rising to a huge volume, everything cut out, Fennesz himself was astonished. After a minute or two of faffing around, he shrugged and indicated that was it. Someone mentioned a fuse going – I guess from the sound desk.
This was the first gig of the promoters Miles of Smiles I’ve been to, but I’ll be keeping an eye on them in the future. Check their website for upcoming performances.