Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Concerto for Voice and Machinery Re-Enactment at the ICA: A Blast (and a Drill) from the Past

I'm listening to the new Shins album, haha, it's very pretty and gorgeous though at times perhaps a little vacuous, "wincing the night away" and reminding me that it can still take good, hummable melodies, old fashioned emotions and a very pretty voice to change someone's life. Or was that just a line in a movie? Really, I love the Shins, okay?

I chose it as a contrast to this evening's "entertainment" which was a re-enactment of the legendary "Concerto for Voice and Machinery" by members of Einstuerzende Neubauten, Genesis P. Orridge, Fad Gadget, etc. in the first week of the equally legendary year of 1984. It was a commissioned piece that ended in a riot and is apparently now part of the mythology of the ICA as a radical arts space (right next to the establishment, Buckingham Palace, etc). Pure noise terror. Drilling into the floor. And it still was that, but thankfully for not too long (the original piece was 25 minutes) and this time earplugs were provided when you walked in. Even though I'm not sure whether I can see the point of it...

The first thing I notice is that the ICA is now non smoking, yay! Finally the bar and theatre space has relatively clean air. there are a lot of cool gigs there but this theatre (!) space is ill equipped for a sold out room of smokers, no air conditioning! Thanks, ICA, for doing this earlier rather than later...

there are a lot of faces gathered that seem vaguely familiar or famous. Faces out of a time machine maybe. it's attracted a good crowd for sure. if you miss the 80s here it is for you to see and hear again, even if that doesn't work completely.

After about five minutes the noise is already too much for me and i use the fact that my glass is empty as an excuse to venture leisurely outside to get another beer where the racket inside sounds kinda interesting, to the bar men at least.

There are several pieces that make up the Concerto, the actors (?) playing the various characters as faithfully as possible switch, uh, instruments. Terrible noise passages, painful even with earplugs, with some slightly more managable bits in between. There are people re-enacting the audience heckling. Towards the end you see a thin figure in black leather, someone reenacting Blixa Bargeld. When he was at the ICA recently for the concert film "Palast der Republik" he didn't seem to like being asked about this event. Maybe he doesn't like to dwell on the past. I'm not sure whether it really worked for me either, but there was something liberating about the physicality of the textured noise unleashed on the audience in exactly the same way that made it more than mere nostalgia. It felt ... good, afterwards, like you managed to get rid of something that bothered you.

The people on stage weren't those legendary performers, and even though they did a good job at acting like them, there was something missing, a real presence rather than just noise. But I guess that's not the point. Or is it? It didn't really sound that great to be honest. I wonder whether Madame Tussaud's will devote a room to them next...

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

My niece...

...and the giant phone outside a shop near my bro's house in Munich. "Can you hear me now?"

CAFE LLOYD 1983 -2007 (???)

I don't know what's happening with the old Cafe Lloyd in my hometown of Ulm but a friend told me it was sold. Will it still be the "Lloyd" after they rebuild it? I don't know. All I know is I spent a significant part of my younger years in here. When it opened in 1983 it was one of the first punk/new wave cafe/places in town, it was a tiny space, and it was very cosy and dark, the windows were covered, it was this weird little secret place, a new thing. I only went there a few times in the very early days. It soon got its first extension, a kind of garden-house-like space with big potted yucca plants, pink neon tubes in the window, mirrors, again with a neon tube display in various bright colours, and big windows that were now open to the outside. Next to that was a tiny garden where about half of a pink original Lloyd car lay stranded. Later there was another extension there too, but even with these two extensions it was still small. It soon became an institution, it was vaguely trendy, vaguely not, a bit grotty, a bit over the top sometimes, but nevertheless it retained a certain oddball vibe that was rooted in the 80s when it had its heyday. Throughout the 80s and 90s a circle of close friends would meet there regularly. We would sit in the cafe for hours talking and drinking, play the pinball machine, hang out. It was somewhere where it was ok to be. You would always meet people there. The music in there was always fairly well chosen. You would hear new records in there, at least in the old days. Sometimes it was funky, edgy, claustrophobic and almost clubby in there, other times just chilled. The milky cafe was good. It was always a bit too small but that was part of its appeal too. For a long time one or two or three meetings at Christmas there was a given. Where else? I walked though this door hundreds of times. The neon tubes in the window stayed throughout, looking dated in a cool way in the end. The 80s chic came and went, came back etc. The Lloyd became just another cafe in the end, I guess. I don't know what happened.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Spoon- Subspace biographies (Live)

i am quail and quasar
i pick you up on radar
i do my job each day
empties crushed and fired away