[live review] to rococo rot, gudrun gut/agf, vladislav delay @ ether, queen elizabeth hall, southbank

April 24, 2010

Concert date: April 23, 2010

The Southbank Centre’s annual Ether festival always delivers, and last night was no exception. The main attraction was over at the Royal Festival Hall where Chris Cunningham – he of Windowlicker and All Is Full Of Love genuis – was presenting an audiovisual extravaganza of some sort.

Queen Elizabeth Hall ticket-holders, meanwhile, had to ‘make do’ with a triple bill of Berlin-based electronica. Like the venue, the music was understated compared to its competitor across the terrace, but no less rewarding for it.

Vadislav Delay (above) – Finnish ambient artist Sasu Ripatti, who also records as Luomo – opened the evening with a set of dub-infused downtempo beats and glitches, supplemented with a range of white noise percussion triggered by a collection of tactile, improvised devices. Inventive and involving, Ripatti confirmed his mastery of laptop atmospherics.

Next, German electronic music matriarch Gudrun Gut (above, left) presented the results of new her collaboration with audiovisual experimentalist Antye Greie (also known as AGF and married to the aforementioned Mr. Delay – above, right). Baustelle (“Construction Site“) blends European industrial music and EBM with abstract film loops and modernist slogan-driven lyrics.

Whether deliberately or otherwise it recalled the late-1980s heyday of industrial dance – Front 242, Nitzer Ebb, Die Krupps, Frontline Assembly – and as such delivered some of the most potent moments of the evening.

Headliners To Rococo Rot (drummer Ronald Lippok, bassist Stefan Schneider and electronics maestro Robert Lippok) showcased their new album, Speculation, which has received strong reviews. On the evidence of this evening (not having heard the record) it sees TRR adopt a more fluid, more performed, less sequenced, less quantised approach to their brand of ambient post-rock.

It didn’t quite open up enough in the live environment until – around two-thirds into their set – they were joined by legendary Faust keyboardist Hans Joachim Irmler. Almost instantaneously the band’s structured politeness was replaced by a freer, more exploratory (but still contemporary-sounding) jam. Human imagination at last broke free from the sublime machine music that preceded it.

For those who missed the machine, Swiss-born techno DJ Thomas Fehlmann played a post-concert set in the QEH foyer. Powerful and pure though his music is, the change in mood, pace and volume was too jarring for some, including, on this occasion, me.

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