SPNM The Sound Source

Set 1:
Matt Wright: Nocturne for bjm
Tom Tlalim: THe BoDy [with live VJ-ing]
Keir Neuringer: One is One [with live VJ-ing]

Set 2 [MTK Improvisation]:
Tom Tlalim: solo (for parts of an electric guitar and processing)
Tom Tlalim and Keir Neuringer: An Abridged List of Options [text piece, to be spoken and added to the mix]
Tom Tlalim, Keir Neuringer, Matt Wright: improvisation

Matt Wright (turntables, beatbox)
Tom Tlalim (electronics)
Keir Neuringer (saxophone, percussion)

Reviewed by: Josh Meggitt

Reviewed: 31 January, 2006
Venue: Cargo, 83 Rivington Street, London

Combining ‘high-brow’ composition with more populist genres, spaces and audiences is nothing new; indeed, it has been one of the defining characteristics of much new music from the latter half of the twentieth century onwards. SPNM’s “Sound Source” series, the first UK full season “out of concert hall new music night” continues in this vein, “bringing cutting-edge composition to new audiences and venues.”

MTK (a trio comprising Matt Wright, Tom Tlalim and Keir Neuringer) aim to mesh academic electro-acoustic music, performed live on a number of instruments and sound sources, with contemporary club-based electronica. This is a match which should be eagerly welcomed, owing to the frequent dullness that arises from the work of both camps.

The opening piece situated events comfortably on the side of ‘standard’ experimental club-based electronica, where they were, for the most part, to remain. Neuringer established loose, glitch-filled drum and bass patterns on a laptop while further rhythms were added by Wright’s vocal beatbox sounds. Melodic lines were delivered ably by Neuringer’s saxophone.

Things picked up with the next work, a busier, chaotic maze of ‘plunderphonics’ from Wright’s turntables, Tlalim’s laptop and contact microphones handled by Neuringer. Droll, mono-tonal speech recordings, subtle Eastern percussion samples and record scratches sat beside visuals depicting rapid cuts of human facial features, evoking a particularly pessimistic vision of information overload and contemporary paranoia.

There followed the group’s strongest work, a cleverly programmed synthesis of sound and vision building thematically upon John Zorn’s game pieces. The screen depicted a computer audio-wave file (aptly titled ‘Dodging Bullets’) displaying the laptop’s audio output (smudged drum and bass patterns) and indicating cues for the saxophonist – and less dramatically turntablist – to react to. Unfortunately the specific instructions weren’t visible to the audience but we witnessed Neuringer move – very quickly at times – from absurdly long circular breathing tones to abrupt shifts in register and high and low skronks, leaving him looking thoroughly exhausted by the piece’s end.

The second, improvised half, while less rewarding, still revealed MTK as strongly adventurous musicians. Initially engaging hip-hop inspired beats from laptop, beatbox and Neuringer’s homemade percussion grew sparse, slipped out of sync and caused the action to fall limp. When less reliance was placed on syncopation things dramatically improved: layers of crackle built from locked record grooves and dark hues of synthesizer drone created a dense and menacing atmosphere. Soft bursts of saxophone and repeated patterns of blurred digital tones coloured these sections, adding drama and escape to an open work which unfolded much like Philip Jeck’s more ambient moments. On this evidence, future “Sound Source” events should be well worth investigating, and I look forward to following the work of MTK.

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