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ONEOHTRIX POINT NEVER, ACTRESS & BRILLIANT LOCALS @ THE BAKERY MARCH 16

Lyndon Blue: Review

ONEOHTRIX POINT NEVER, ACTRESS & BRILLIANT LOCALS @ THE BAKERY MARCH 16

Andrew Ryan

As I ferried an amp behind the curtain side-of-stage at The Bakery, the bleedingly obvious dawned on me: tonight’s bill was ridiculous. Not only Actress, but Actress and another international wunderkind, and not just any wunderkind, but Oneohtrix Point Never. Each of these two dudes released albums in the last 2 years, which I feel actually expanded my notion of contemporary electronic music. So that’s a pretty big deal for me. And these two are a pretty big deal for a lot of people; the gig as a whole is what you’d call monumental. Somehow that hadn’t really occurred to me until now. But it’s not only these two either. It’s a whole host of local talent. It’s one of those “get outta town” type bills.

Or, more accurately, “get into town” – the sort of gig that you’d notice on the internet and think “Dayum! Wish I lived in Perth!” The guys from {move} and ICSSC have outdone themselves here. But enough smooching of posteriors. You want to know what happens at the show (I think).

The minutes wile away and we’re introduced to EMERALD CABAL & REECE WALKER. These well-groomed gentlemen have recently been doing sets at Velvet Lounge nights et al as a dynamic DJ-cum-production duo, and it’s not hard to hear why they’ve teamed up. The musical chemistry between them is clear and focused; sonically their efforts fuse into one cohesive tower of rhythm and goo. The explorations tonight are underpinned by one tireless house beat – an unyielding four-to-the-floor – around which Alex and Reece juggle noises, layers of flickering percussion, full-cream synth basslines and chopped/warped samples. It’s sparse, satisfying, somewhat sinister.

Rupert [Thomas, from Erasers] and I fetch some dark ales, spread our various gadgets out on a table like we’re preparing a dinner party and then play a set. It’s Rupert’s set (under his solo guise of LEAVING), but he invited me to play some guitar, perhaps to prevent me from writing one of my daft reviews about it. Anyway, Rupert’s great at crafting trance-like minimal synth mantras, and I think he does a swell job tonight, but g’day conflict of interest – so I’ll tell you about KYNAN TAN.

Kynan – a prodigious music-meets-art-meets-science wizard – has been blessing esoterically-inclinced audiences in Australia, Germany and Japan for the last few years with his audiovisual experiments. Tonight he’s offering live iterations of tracks off his latest album, rætina, with Shy Panther bandmate Ben Santostefano accompanying on acoustic drum kit. Kynan himself handles electronics and visuals, using a laptop and his home-made software patches I can’t profess to understand. What I can tell you is that the result is unique, beguiling and uncanny, sitting at the intersection between instrumenta, left-of-leftfield hip hop, electronica noise, melody, and abstract sound art. The familiar sound of drum kit provides a reference point from which to appreciate the curiosity of Kynan’s compositions, emphasizing unusual time signatures, shifts in tempo and accent. Meanwhile Kynan elicits drones, patters, swells, modulations, glitches, clicks and booms to envelop us in an otherworldly gauze of synthetic resonance.

Now I’ve always known Tim Loughman as the drummer from Astral Travel and Bermuda, but, just as Tiger Woods is an excellent spear-fisherman on the side (no that is not a euphemism), Loughman happens to flourish in the domain of analogue electronica. I could tell you roughly what it sounds like; I could tell you it echoes early house, and is rich with arpeggiations and bass squelch, and has a real authentic pre-computer-age kind of aesthetic going on without being a nostalgia trip. But anything I could say would undersell the actual juiciness of the qualia that comes with experiencing a BASIC MIND set. So just go experience one.

With BASIC MIND having just sewed the seeds for a majestic dance uprising, the vibe proffered by ONEOHTRIX POINT NEVER comes as something of a shock to the system. But still, a nice kind of shock, like being pushed in the pool fully clothed on a humid day. Those familiar with Oneohtrix’s recorded output would have known they were probably not in for a set of high-energy club bangers, but could have been forgiven for hypothesizing a live set that adapted itself to favour rhythm and beats. Nope. The bearded, unassuming Daniel Lopatin emerges and bathes in the glow of his laptop screen, taking us by the wrist and leading us down a warped, dusty rabbit hole.

While there is no shortage of reference points for what Oneohtrix Point Never does in a literal sense, I find myself stumped when it comes to drawing musical comparisons to describe the feeling of listening to his work. There are Boards of Canada similarities, particularly in the avid use of 80s source material (tv commercials, corporate synths), but with Oneohtrix it doesn’t feel like songcraft, beat production or even “composition” per se. It’s more like world building. The test-tube growth of enigmatic sonic environments. This is Philip K. Dick writing with sounds instead of words. We gaze on, the projector displaying an ever-rotating 3D-modelled formation somewhat like a blue pelvis designed on Windows 95, flanked by a textured grey backdrop and solar lens flare. Similarly dated motifs move across the screen and seem to spill into the tunes. This is the world of Oneohtrix Point Never; referencing the past in a way that is surreal and awkward, forging its own unlikely nameless future. The sounds tonight from white noise to bass swoops to crackling samples to fluttery melodies; for the most part it is skewed and alien. The question seems to float through the air, what are we to do with this? We can’t dance, but we can’t really relax in a trance – it’s far too erratic. So we stand, and listen, and feel it all rush through our arteries and leave us slightly altered. As one Coolperthnights editor says to me on the stairs after the set, it’s a “biological” experience. Deeply biological.

Oneohtrix Point Never has kneaded my pineal into glorious submission and I’m in a zone I didn’t know existed. As such, when London’s Darren Cunningham, aka ACTRESS, steps up and flips into a throbbing dance-oriented set, I’m probably not in the right headspace. And let’s be honest here – the guy knows what he’s doing, he never slips up, and scores of people are loving it, so I’m not about to criticize tonight’s Actress set by any objective measure of merit. Thing is, the things I’ve loved about Actress to date are largely absent. The ethereal, meandering samples; the sparse, pastoral, lo-fi snippets that punctuate last year’s R.I.P. album, the diverse approach to producing that might recall Burial etc but almost as readily brings to mind contemporary classical and soundtrack vibes. But here, Actress goes for that relentless mid-tempo stomp from the beginning of the set ‘til the end, and it feels a bit like driving down a country road at night with only the unchanging bitumen directly ahead illuminated. Which is sometimes exactly what you want to hear. Right now, I’d prefer to submerge myself in the curious layers and flickerings of slow burner ‘Jardin’ or another textural outing. Thing is, there are many sides to Darren Cunningham and his willingness to go with what he’s feeling makes him so unique and great – so I wouldn’t change a thing. At the end of the evening that unstoppable groove blooms into the sweet strains of “Ascension,” and everything feels pretty good.

At the time of writing I’ve just dug out my dad’s old copy of Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue” and it is drifting through the air. It sounds nothing like Oneohtrix Point Never, or Actress, or anyone else that played at that gig, but I remember hearing it for the first time. It wasn’t a jaw-dropping moment; but it left a lasting impression. I didn’t know whether I “liked” it yet, but it was music unlike anything I’d quite heard before. I’d heard jazz – fast jazz, slow jazz, dissonant and not-so-dissonant stuff – but “Kind of Blue” went beyond descriptors, hollowing itself a space in the scheme of things, exuding a mood – heck, a worldview, however ineffable – all of its own. While I don’t feel the need to declare producers like Daniel Lopatin or Darren Cunningham the rightful heirs to Miles Davis’ legacy of innovation, I can say in honesty that hearing their records and performances for the first time gives me that same feeling. It’s difficult to express, impossible to ignore. An atmosphere, an aesthetic, totally belonging to the artist, and within it, the grain of some distant but certain truth. As far as I’m concerned, that’s a pretty big deal.