Nik Colk Void + Klara Lewis
Returning to Liverpool having shed half of her main project Factory Floor, and recruiting Swedish-born electronic composer KLARA LEWIS, NIK COLK VOID’s performance tonight promises to be somewhat different to the dancefloor-friendly post-punk she is perhaps best known for. As a live, improvised electronic composition from the pair as part of FACT’s ongoing exhibition No Such Thing As Gravity, the pummelling drums and acid-tinged bass will probably be left behind. The exhibition itself poses the question ‘what is the nature of scientific proof?’, exploring the limits of science where the absence of established facts may leave room for new theories, alternative science, and conspiracy theories. It’s an interesting prospect to see how the duo contend with such lofty enquiries and there is a sense in the venue that most don’t know what to expect.
Opening the show tonight is the snappily named ALGOBABEZ. Part of the equally puntastic Algorave scene, their deconstructionist approach to live electronic composition is equal parts arcane and invigorating. The duo’s experimental songcraft sees them writing their compositions by typing out computer code on the fly, generating their noisy, dance-tinged compositions with keyboard strokes over pads of piano keys. While they stand on stage behind their laptops, furiously typing away, the inner workings of their process are projected across the back wall for the audience to admire while listening. Lines of code scurry across the screen as the audio is generated and manipulated in real time. A thrilling, if somewhat alienating experience, that proffers a new approach to live electronics, bringing the idiosyncrasy and unpredictability of traditional instruments into the digital realm.
The headliners for this evening take a slightly more traditional approach to their live composition work. Stood behind an imposing black table, behind laptops and cables of varying sizes and shapes, their process remains altogether more mysterious. Found sounds, grumbling synthesis and amniotic effects make up a heady soup of sounds that straddles the divide between music for the body and music for the head.
Hypnotic and beguiling, the rhythmic inflections hint at a dance music heritage but, much like the deconstructed drum and bass of Lee Gamble of or the ethereal dubstep of Balam Acab, the soundscapes are altogether more abstract. Arhythmic and sparsely populated, the alien world conjured by the duo’s synth work bridges the divide between the industrial and the organic. The accompanying visuals further invite exploration on the dichotomy between these two worlds. Cogs and pistons smash while cells split and reproduce, all of it garbled though a warped video filter. The low rumble of the bass lends the set an air of menace throughout, while the glassy, reverberant percussion creates dream spaces which the compositions inhabit.
Having a gig with entirely female performers shouldn’t be worthy of note, but, thinking on tonight’s performance, it may be worth reflecting briefly on the space electronic music composition and performance has opened for women to exist outside the paradigms or stereotypes of ‘female musicians’. Being able to eschew the traditional roles for ‘girls in bands’, there is an increasingly large number of successful women operating in the vanguard of the form, gaining recognition that has often evaded those working in the more traditional genres. This perhaps speaks to the politics of the genres or maybe the newness of the form. With promoters like Deep Hedonia and institutions like FACT and The Philharmonic providing platforms and visibility to these musicians, it will surely inspire more to carry the mantle. This can only be good thing for the scene going forwards, both locally and nationally.