It is always difficult to fully grasp the enormous transitions that have occurred in music in the last ten years, with the increasing availability of innovation in sampling and software, and the scope and range of artists’ creativity, production values, and presentation. I have never particularly been an advocate of ” one man and his laptop” as the basis for the presentation of digital/electronic music, as , more often than not, it is deeply un-interesting to watch, and in most instances consists merely of “playback” or pre-recorded material, rather than any kind of live “performance” per se. However, when a group of committed individuals present an event such as the ATAK Nights in Japan, I am convinced that there is still some mileage in this mode of presentation, and that the need and desire to engage artist and audience in symbiotic harmony is still great in human culture.
This DVD, presented in an immaculate, futuristic silver card package, is a document of a live event held at Club Unit, Tokyo in February, featuring a roster of artists that have emerged from the post “clicks ‘n cuts” movement of the early 2000’s. Headed up by the constantly evolving Pan Sonic, the evening was something of a watershed event for participants and audience alike, coralling together a group of artists into a singular, dynamic event that ATAK metaphorically refers to as an ” automated device”, a fusion of artist and audience, a pulsating, oscillating organism.
The DVD opens with the austere, scintillating electronics of Evala, who systematically “out – Noto’s” Mr Noto himself with deft use of pin-sharp rhythms, dirty sampling, and insistent, compulsive displays of digital virtuosity. Evala remains, for the whole performance, entranced by his own activity. Totally focussed on the shimmering screen, he becomes one with the machine. At times the performance goes into sensory overdrive, Evala scattering splinters of sound into the ether, overlaid by the strobe-laden images provided by video maestros, Exonemo. The audience is driven into a frenzied state, with various whoops and ecstatic exclamations, testament to Evala’s powerful sonic attack on the senses, I’ve rarely experienced this kind of reaction at such an event myself, but then – I am English… Next up is Goem, with Frans De Waard at the controls..this is a more evenly paced affair, that appears at first to be at odds with the theme of the evening, with composited, delicate rhythm structures and more subtle electronic gesturing, Goem’s set forms a bridge to the Keiichiro Shibuya set, that mirrors the work of Evala..this time though, the rhythms are more fractured, stratified. Shibuya uses dramatic near-silences to great effect, once again enticing the audience along with him, building anticipation, then bombarding us with an assault of static bursts, granular hums, and digital breakdown..once again, the audience yelps its delight in being awash with these extreme frequencies..masterful.
Keijo Haino is no stranger to most of us..bursting into the frame with a series of frenzied primal screams, squeals, and howls, which are then looped and fed into a mix of scratchy electronica..his purple hair, and constant demands on the sound engineers to amp up the volume are sheer performance art, at once amusing, and slightly disturbing, this is a man; more a demon, totally absorbed by his art, his screams are pain, joy, ecstasy, and despair all at the same time. Pan Sonic turn in their usual measured performance with a tonescape of manipulated feedback, traversing the entire frequency spectrum, tone-sliding their way through a slowly decaying rhythm-fest, with only the triplicate waveforms of their oscilloscope as a backdrop, Pan Sonic have re-defined their genre with a series of ground-breaking releases, and breathtaking live presentations.
The DVD ends with a series of collaborative pieces performed at a “secret gig”, featuring various permutations of the participants above. As a document of two live events, this is fine stuff indeed, and the post production adds quality to the overall presentation ..for lovers of truly innovative music and sound, this DVD is a must-have..a worthy addition to any collection, and yet another fine release from ATAK. BGN