Sunday, 18 November 2007

15 November 2007 – Rod Thomas + si-cut.db, The ICA

A Roundhouse/ICA collaboration
Concentrate, because this blog gets a bit art-house now. The proposition, as cooked up by Henry T’s Entertainment and Nick Luscombe, was to hook up two musicians in a roots’n’shoots’ collaboration, to see what they produce – the Anderson principle here being that for every 1000 near-misses, the occasional success will make the whole thing worthwhile. The set – a bit of Doug, a bit of Rod and then the collaboration - the result of 10 weeks rehearsals at the Roundhouse.

Now the keener reader of this blog will have noticed that I know Rod Thomas’ music quite well – from the unplugged sound in the tiled corridors beneath Liverpool Street Station, to noisy bashes in the livelier bars of Hoxton and Shoreditch. This time Rod had a real theatre to play in, with good acoustics and a professional sound system – oh, and the happy accident of seating – focussing the audience’s attention, which performers can struggle with at Indie gigs.

On the other hand, I don’t know a lot about si-cut.db (Doug Benford), but I can see where he’s coming from and he is clearly well-respected in his own circle; back in May he performed in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern, so I guess that puts him firmly in the experimental musician category.

So, back to the roots’n’shoots premise – established/emerging musician, old ways in collaboration with new ways. Well, not quite. In fact the whole preconception is turned on its head. The ‘elder’ party being an electronic techno-wizard – his sole set a composition of music files - layered, pulsing, overlapping and echoing; electronica in free-form with no two performances ever the same. That said, I think his style is more suited to recorded cds rather than a live theatre performance. As he sat slaving over a hot lap-top, I found myself wanting to see what was on his computer screen – was he moving files around in time to the music, or was he watching the swirls from Media Player? The projector screen above his head was begging to be filled with pictures - give this man an interactive whiteboard, please!

The counterpoint to si-cut is young Rod, who has gone back to music’s purer roots, using ‘old’ technology to record and loop real sounds as he goes along, so that he too builds a unique performance each time. And – and he sings. Rod showed what he could do with a loop pedal, handclaps, keyboard and guitar, putting in a short set of his beatier tunes, including ‘Your Love is a Tease’, ‘You’re So Disco’, ‘Good Coat’ and ‘As If’ – one man band meets disco/folk – erm, it really is his own niche.

For the joint performance Rod and Doug presented a set which displayed their respective skills, at the same time showing how two individualists can work respectfully together to produce something new and rather special. Someone had the brainwave of adding graphics – step forward Matt Collet, whose themed films worked a treat and were the necessary third element (see Youtube clip here.) Taking the theme of Play Room, they used different combinations of their respective styles to cast an imaginative spell where electronica gave way to pure notes, and back, sometimes both mixing together under a pulsating overhead echo. Laptop, guitar, keyboard, ukulele, piano, melodica, glockenspiel and vocals were all used (what, no stylophone?). There were instrumental pieces and sung melodies too – the heartbreaker ‘Plastic Lullabye’ being one of the highlights.

Dues were paid to each musician’s particular style, but I couldn’t help wondering which of them gained the most from this collaboration. Rod had the edge in terms of vocals and the sheer number of instruments at his command but there is no doubting si-cut’s ├╝ber-cool technical skills. It added a spark to see him come out from behind that laptop to play the glockenspiel and keyboard – maybe next time he could sing too.

So hats off to the performers and lots of cred to the brains behind the project. Look them up here for more information and pod casts to download. I'm told there will be an i-tunes EP in 2008 also.

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