AFTER / BEFORE at Babushka featured a collective of artists that turned the venue into a warehouse space, inviting audiences to engage with performances and installation work in different locations.

Guitarist Jameson Feakes started the night with a short acoustic set, by strumming continuously he created drones rich in harmonics, a simple idea that yielded complex results through iteration. His focus on evolving timbres, on sounds that blend, clash or decay merits a longer set. It felt strange once it was over, as if harsh lights had been turned on abruptly.

But by the time Tourist Kid had finished, the atmosphere at Babushka had changed from chamber-like contemplation to a hard-edged club vibe. The local producer has an accomplished technique and a keen sense for contrast; he would focus on a section while a different one played underneath, creating simultaneous points of interest at any given time.

More straight forward was Opium, who seems happier playing in the background, interested in colouring the atmosphere with gentle pads and beats. It made me think of Brian Eno’s idea of music that is unobtrusive yet interesting, and Opium’s set was warm and considered towards the audience.

Those who came early could interact with an installation by Nathan Thompson, it consisted of a video synthesiser taking a live feed of people’s faces on a small screen, unfortunately a malfunction saw it being packed early. Thompson is an artist with an impressive practice and everyone should check out his website for samples of his work.

Impromptu performances by bass clarinetist Shosh Rosenberg and dancer Georgia Page took place in different locations, breaking the rigidity of the stage – seats divide. Their rapport radiated in the crowd and for many, Georgia’s interactions with the audience were the highlight of the night.

Once onstage Steve Paraskos and Ben Stacy meant business, the two brought an uncompromising attitude to music making that felt urgent and alive. Ben Stacy pounded on his drums with fury while Paraskos switched from guitar to sampler gesticulating like a madman. Everything that comes from these two conveys forceful intent, you forget you are listening to music, it transcends the event, the venue, their instruments: it simply cannot be contained because it taps into primal atavisms. Steve Paraskos’ defiant antics seemed to be saying “don’t get too comfortable in your seats people”. ‘

Heard with headphones, the music of Leafy Suburbs evokes an inner space in the listener. Because of this, it was interesting to hear his pristine sounds blended with the grittiness of a live venue. Joining him were the talented Lana on vocals and Alana Macpherson on saxophone, an apt line-up choice for their textural explorations, with Lyndon being the restless counterpart to Lana’s ethereal style, and Alana summing up the singer’s phrasing with rhythmical figures on alto sax. While each offered unique contributions, the interplay felt a bit sluggish during the second half. Yet, the audience was grateful to see musicians in collaboration and making an effort to bring something new.

Bronte Jones’ installation consisted of a black screen with a pulsating white light whose breathing-like glow slowed down if you got closer to it, and accelerated the farther you stood. A reference to the Macbook’s Sleep Indicator Light (SIL), the little LED brought a nurturing feeling in the spectator standing near, yet evoked feelings of distress if you decided to “abandon” it and walk away. Just like with Jameson’s set, this work revealed finer nuances the longer you engaged with it.

AFTER / BEFORE broadened the term “gig” at an established venue like Babushka, with audiences and artists keen to embrace the improvisational unknown of the event. Kudos go to Josten Myburgh for organising the ine up and to CoolPerthNights for allowing creative projects like this to happen.

Eduardo Cossio