Live Review: Slip Discs at Power Lunches, Dalston. April 3rd, 2013.
The first of two of the Manchester-based label’s showcases brought a whole lot of vibe to a dank Dalston basement. Founded in 2012, Slip Discs already has a solid back-catalogue of four releases, unified by their unapologetically intelligent forays into the no-man’s land between experimental classical music and electronica. This night featured live sets from Chaines, Aaron Parker and Tom Rose & Aisha Orazbayeva, tapered off with a DJ set from David Futers and Laurie Tompkins. As an event, this showcase functioned perfectly within the ethos of intimacy that defines Slip Discs. The atmosphere was low key, disarmingly so, prompting one audience member with baby-pink dreadlocks to shout “It’s just a geeeeezer wiv a MacBook!!!”. But the sounds hung like a murky ether in the air, slowly but surely stealing their way into the consciousness of all present.
Chaines, aka Caroline Haines, opened the night with bombastic electronic cuts and scrapes. The mid-range was terse and sporadic, determined to scramble the brain from the very outset. We then melted into lucid synthwork, like a midi-keyboard drowning in a bath of opium, and the anonymous harmonies, never seeking to exhaust their tonal potential, swelled and subsided like a living, breathing organism. The set was permeated by a fascinating interplay between live electronics and acoustic instruments, the violin and ocarina making an appearance, providing much needed melodic content and a plaintive, folkloristic colour. What was more striking, however, was Chaines’ manipulation of the vocal elements in her tracks, evolving throughout the set. A clear influence of Stockhausen’s “Gesang der Jünglinge” can be detected in the hysterical but artificially controlled vocal flutterings, and they felt very much at home here, exposed as alien only when, towards the end of her set, Caroline sang them live and they gained a real-time, haunting presence, bringing the audience into her personal soundworld. The Stockhausen influence was complemented by vocal treatment reminiscent of the Harmonimix version of Trimbal’s “Confidence Boost”, and a Hype Williams-esque pitch-bent sound of a crying child. It’s blood curdling stuff and exposes a gripping duality between the plaintive and the perverse.
Aaron Parker’s set was the perfect interim between Chaines and Tom Rose, with dizzying electronic drones that totally defied gravity. The colours and directions of his sounds were pregnant with possibility but were tantalisingly subverted, and his beatless collisions boiled into a satisfying nothingness. Compared with Chaines, Tom Rose’s electronics were more demanding, more abstract, more subtle. They required the complete submission of the audience to his flawlessly produced whim. He opened with moist, organic glitches, which then fell prey to searing, aimless bass, and it sounded like the musique concrète of planet Pluto. The subtlety of the violin part, masterfully executed by Aisha, was reminiscent of Helmut Lachenmann’s cello writing. The real strong point, however, was how the violin was seamlessly interwoven into the electronics, and it was Tom’s play with these timbral possibilities that gave his set its structure. His resonances sounded as if they were self-generative, driving towards their own climaxes and resolutions. After a long period of beats appearing as intruders from outside the box, the tables were turned, and the beats took prominence for a while, bringing an acidic and almost violent energy. The sense of urgency that was building up was brought to an abrupt end when Aisha sang a rendition of Elvis Presley’s “Heartbreak Hotel” whilst strumming the violin in accompaniment. Tom’s electronics wound around this almost imperceptibly, bringing the listener out of orbit and providing a celestial close to a fully sick set.
The night ended with the sounds of outer space brought by David and Laurie, with vibes akin to Chubby Wolf and Oneohtrix Point dominating. Their selection was aptly unobtrusive, wanting the audience’s thoughts to stay with the live sets that they had heard, and yet providing a living sonic backdrop to keep those memories warm. As they piled out, everyone was still very much in the zone, trying to grasp and retain the mental environment which had been constructed for them, but also aware of it slipping away in a similarly covert fashion as when it had first entered.
The next Slip Discs showcase, at the same venue, is on April 17th 2013, and comes with serious recommendations.
Written by Maria Fred Perevedentseva