Colin Riley (composer/keyboard)
Olivia Chaney (voice)
Zoe Martlew (cello)
Pete Wilson (bass guitar)
Rob Millet (percussion)
Ben Jarlett (sound manipulation)
Howie Bailey (live video)
Chris Lewis (sound engineer)

Reviewed by: Rob Witts

Reviewed: 21 March, 2006
Venue: The Spitz, Old Spitalfields Market, London

“We’re using six laptops on this concert, and one of them goes wrong every ten minutes or so”. Composer Colin Riley looked ruefully over the electronic kit assembled on stage as a technician scurried around. It is a constant worry in electronic music, no less now in these days of shiny Powerbooks and live sampling than in the prehistoric age of room-filling synthesisers, that the electronics will get stage-fright. Thankfully, gremlins only halted the music once in this enjoyable concert, part of the IF:06 Festival (formerly the Isleworth Festival, but which has now rather outgrown Isleworth).

Riley’s MooV ensemble explores the territory between Lieder and pop song, in a similar vein to Errollyn Wallen (with whom Riley has collaborated in the past). The music thrives on the tension between fragmented, minimalist instrumental textures and the ecstatic, lyrical melodies that float across them, suggesting the voice of the impassioned individual surrounded by the indifferent chatter of 21st-century life. Rob Millet’s diaphanous percussion and Pete Wilson’s agile six-string bass merged with the fine haze of sound generated by Ben Jarlett, who hovered over one of the aforementioned laptops. Behind them was Howie Bailey’s modishly abstract graphics: figures in a shimmering heat haze for Slow Shadow, juddering waveforms for Beautiful Wounds.

This was the first number to feature Olivia Chaney, whose warm and soulful voice was the perfect complement to her musical surroundings. Riley’s music was less appealing where such contrast was absent, primarily in The Message, in which drum ‘n’ bass rhythms backed moody synths to no great effect. But there was much to enjoy elsewhere, particularly Fall Away, in which pitched and unpitched percussion sounds were artfully shaded together, and Chaney’s sampled voice was looped into plaintive repetition: the ghost in the machine.

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