Sunday, 15 September 2013

Kings Place Festival: experimental, intimate, and fusion

Oddarang’s Olavi Louhivuori credit Tero Ahonen
This year’s King’s Place Festival is shaping up to be a marvellous weekend of diverse delights. All events are under a fiver, and many are free, so it is a perfect opportunity to try something new or revisit old favourites.

An early start for experimental Finnish group Oddarrang brought in the after work crowd. Hot foot from Manchester they arrived with stories of lost (and found) instruments and promoting their new album ‘In Cinema’. An interesting mix of sound, they incorporated lead and bass guitar, drums, cello and trombone, with formless vocals and some sound looping. Composer and drummer, Olavi Louhivuori, doubled on piano, and there was the occasional pitched percussion thrown in for good measure.

Oddarrang’s set began aptly enough with Introducing, a wash of sound where the melody first on cello is transformed and passed around the performers, and is enhanced with recorded/looped elements. After building up to a break where the cello and trombone reverberate into white noise, the cello and bass are first to climb out and continue the mood exploration.

There was an ever-changing light show to complement the performance. But through this and the more upbeat and rock-based The Sage, with its powerful fractured coda, I felt that, although the music stood on its own, there was something missing from the experience. The reason became apparent – it was explained that the music for this album was composed and first performed to go along with four films shown at a festival.

Missing tapes from highway... began with melody on trombone and a walking bass on cello, but with unstable and shifting sound worlds constantly changing the atmosphere. Churning showed yet another colour to Oddarrang’s palette, focussing on the juxtaposition of pointillism and legato staggered chords. The last piece of the set was taken from their previous album Self Portrait, with changes of mood and a dramatic unison finish. Their encore Quiet steps, written by the bass player, was a model of what is emotionally possible using the barest minimum of a tune if you have enough imagination and the guts to go your own way.

This group is hard to pigeonhole – and that is one of their strengths. Comparisons with Björk seem redundant. They seem to be more interested in changing sounds, and what is possible by combining different instruments whilst keeping within a minimalist approach, than following someone else’s lead. I would have liked to have had the film behind them – or at least some stills, rather than just the ever-changing lights but the band assured the audience that if you buy the CD you get a link to the videos too. You can listen to Oddarrang on Soundcloud.

My second experience was Folk in a Box - a three minute personal performance of beautiful and haunting folk. I was led into a dark box which, although small, was big enough for the performer (Sukie Smith from Madam) and me to sit comfortably. I was offered a choice of music – I chose something cheery and was treated to Rise u’. There was a moon-like patch of light behind the performer’s head, just enough to prevent the dark from being oppressive but not enough to see the performer distinctly. So while the experience was personal it was not ‘in your face’ – somewhere between relaxing to a CD at home and being at a concert. You can also find some of their music on Soundcloud.

After chatting to friends I returned to the foyer to listen to the Django Reinhardt - style jazz of Rose, Holburn, and Harris. Starring Deborah Rose on vocals, Remi Harris on guitar and Matt Holborn on violin, the group played an upbeat dance set including classics like All of me and Domino, but also self written works such as Springtime to lyrics by Eva Cassidy, to an appreciative audience. Setting the folk heart of Deborah Rose against the technical splendour of Remi Harris and Matt Holburn epitomised the whole melting pot feel of the festival.

Finally, just before I left, I caught a few minutes of the sound check of the London Klezmer Quartet, at the downstairs foyer which promised to be a great set – and the evening was nowhere near finished. People were arriving for the later concerts as I was leaving to catch the tube home.

Whether you chose something new or pick a favourite the King’s Place Festival is a great way to experience contemporary and classical music in a relaxed environment which encourages fusion and experimentation. The only problem is choosing what to miss.

For by the minute updates see #Kpfest on twitter @roberthugill @kingsplace

review by Hilary Glover

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