Thursday 17 July 2014

Fithy lucre: Lost in the nameless city

Lore Lixenberg
Lore Lixenberg
Fithy lucre: Lost in the nameless city
Reviewed by Hilary Glover on Jul 11 2014
Star rating: 4.0

Poetry and performance in Peckham Art Cafe hits a high point.

Originally based in Cambridge, but now in London, this is the fourth year of Filthy Lucre, the brain child of Anthony Friend and Joe Bates (Artistic Director), who wanted to create immersive musical experiences around a set artistic concept. Filthy Lucre 4 'Lost in the nameless city' explored "shining cities and urban decay, ruinlust and abandonment, suburbs, utopias and the towns they built to change" in the Clf Art Cafe in the heart of Peckham.

The Filthy Lucre orchestra, conducted by William Cole (a composer in his own right), led the way through this urban jungle, giving each new work their complete concentration. Performers Geoff Clapham, Lore Lixenberg, Rob Luft, Luke Newman and Cecil B Demented added their own interpretation of being lost.

The evening began with a very slow lounge version of 'London Calling' by the Clash sung by Geoff Clapham. As a classically trained bass Clapham sings at St Bartholomew the Great and with Tenebrae and the Westminster Cathedral Choir. But for tonight he ironed his voice into perfect smoothness, leaned against pillars, as though he had partaken of too much culture. The angry 70s punk anthem was transformed into something far more pensive. He later sang 'Sprawl I (Flatlands) by the Canadian band Arcade Fire in the same style – a lost singer, lost in the city.

'15°35'n/0°00'e-040714' by Aaron Parker for orchestra and recorded sounds was very quiet – barely there notes crept underneath the recorded sounds which initially sounded something like the hum of air con, but built up in layers including beeps, crackles and hisses. Parker's preoccupation is with the 'intersection between the man-made and the natural – where the conscious meets the unconscious' and here he produced a relaxing work which deserved a darkened room and comfy sofas. Conductor William Cole held everyone together tightly, and stopped the players losing their places with very clear sectional downbeats.

I am curious about the map reference as it is somewhere in Gao, Mali. Did Parker intend a person to be lost in Gao or is it a case of a simple transposition of numbers (51°35'n/ 0°00'e is in Walthamstow) in which case a person relying on their GPS a person would be lost?

Lore Lixenberg is very much interested in the possibilities of voice and performance (I last saw her being a bird during the Spitalfields Festival) and performing Fausto Romitelli's (1963-2004) 'Lost' (written in 1997 - but this is its UK premiere) she blurred the line between playing an instrument (kazoo I think) and vocalising. In order to obscure how she was performing she had her back to the audience. This had the additional effect of making her a member of the ensemble rather than a soloist.

'Lost' uses lyrics taken from Jim Morrison's (1943-1971) surrealist poetry and very dense instrumentation, with staggered entries, ascending scales, and crescendoing held notes. Unusual additions included pan pipes, harmonica, electric bass guitar, and keyboard which changed the timbre of the otherwise classical instrumentation. At times Lixenberg's voice was totally subsumed by the instruments; this can be annoying in dramatic opera but here added to the total effect and despair of Morrison's lyrics.

Rob Luft played 'Electric counterpoint' by Steve Reich (1936-) to a slide show by Paul Vernon. The film used stills and movies in and around London – some real, focussing on the join between nature and the city such as graffiti on foot tunnels with scrubby weeds growing along the path, some of an architectural model. The music and film fitted together perfectly providing a different experience of London.

Poems, performed by the authors Luke Newman and Cecil B Demented, were set to tracks by Emma-Jean Thackray. 'Mosquito Slabs' had an electronic tones being passed around the speakers and some growling guitar sounds from Luft; the accompaniment for 'How comes' was centred on more lyrical guitar. 'I'm new here' by Gil Scott-Heron (1949-2011) and Jamie XX and 'Twice the first time' by Saul Williams (1972-) had orchestral settings arranged by Joe Bates.

'Green Belt' by Thackray, like most of the pieces, was also a premiere. Here she expanded on the style used to accompany the poets, to produce something that was a bit folk, a bit punk funk, with hints of bird calls and Rhodes piano and an electronic track.

Despite the disco upstairs which added a dance beat back track to everything after the first interval, my only regret was that because it started late I had to miss the last few acts in order to get my train home.

Forums like Filthy Lucre are essential to music, providing a home for new works and experimentation, and allowing composers and performers a chance to grow. Everything I heard had some interesting ideas in it and brought a new look at the lives of people living in this city. You can keep up with what there are doing on Facebook.
Reviewed by Hilary Glover

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