unfold @ FACT 20/5/16

Intended as a response to Japanese artist Ryoichi Kurokawa’s stunning new audio/visual installation, UNFOLD, five short films have been set to newly commissioned live scores by local and international musicians. unfold is an astral assault on the senses. Drawing from data taken from giant molecular clouds in space, Kurokawa has created his vision of the secrets behind the birth and evolution of stars. Taking place in FACT’s main gallery, three large projection screens are stacked to the ceiling. This provides a unique viewing experience, prompting the audience to stretch out on the carpet. Tonight’s ‘performers’ are mostly hidden to the rear of the stage, seen only by the glow of running equipment.

Liverpool-based producers KEPLA and LING, both having released their respective debut EPs this year, EP and Attachment, kick the night off, scoring KARA BLAKE’s Timbre – a short that explores the intimacy of synaesthesia. Opening with swells of dark energy that punctuate the sound of skittering insects, a measured, dissonant piano part takes the dominant voice. Heavily degraded sample sources are reduced to a percolating bed of ambient noise which at times comes to resemble the flow of water. Timbre features tight shots of human activity in common urban settings with a consistent colour scheme. The warmth of the short is very much at odds with the cold and distant score.

KARL ASTBURY (of Manchester band Nine Black Alps) ramps up the intensity by giving SAM WIEHL’s Fragment a pummelling soundtrack. The intermittent stop-start sounds of bubbling water create a feeling of unease, which only intensifies as layers of wind and hail clash. Cutting away to lo-fi strings that are reminiscent of Mica Levi’s haunting score for Under The Skin, we see monochrome 3D renderings of what appears to be a long abandoned wasp nest. Following Fragment, Kurokawa’s unfold is exhibited. In contrast to the indebted scorings, unfold becomes a more choreographed and precise experience – Hollywood ‘hit points’ and all. Presented in surround sound and making full use of the projection surface, unfold packs a punch!

After the intermission, North Wales-based ANT DICKINSON scores SIMON FAITHFUL’s 30km, which was filmed solely via weather balloon. A lone distress call starts the piece, fading away as our vantage point of the Earth gets further away from the ground. A single violin note punctuates the suspenseful air of dancing delay effects. The piece reveals its breadth at a glacial pace. The distress call returns but this time feels more like an intercepted alien transmission beamed through static, now that the curvature of the Earth can be seen.

Manchester duo SHIELD PATTERNS take their turn on untitled by ALICE DUNSEATH. Quick cuts of time-lapsed clay geometric configurations and crystals are complemented by descending, machine-assisted vocal harmonies. Spoken word now looms over clarinet improvisations and I can’t help but spot the similarity of the visuals to the red vortex of Stevie Wonder’s Songs In The Key Of Life artwork.

Lastly, Spanish-born and current Chester resident ISABEL BENITO GUTIERREZ scores Abstraction 41+50 by MORGAN BERINGER. Deep double-bass bowings and flourishes from saxophonist Ged Barry, switching between alto and tenor, feel like the most inspired and truly improvisational moment of the night.

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