Jean-Jacques Perrey and AV Festival review

March 17, 2008 at 4:13 am (electronic music, Hypnotique, live reviews) ()

AV festival logo

On my Hypnotique blog I flagged up that I would be at the AV Festival with the posse for Jean-Jacques Perrey. Here’s a mini review of the couple of bits I saw of the North East’s AV Festival, an international festival of electronic arts, music and moving image. I went to two days of the 10 day event (1st and 2nd March).

Saturday 1st was really a day of catching up with, appreciating, and wigging out to the crazy new electronic pop sounds of Jean-Jacques Perrey with his new musical partner (and biographer) Dana Countryman as part of the Radiophonia day.

I last saw Jean-Jacques and the extended clan one very snowy and icy February in Berlin for the 2006 Transmediale festival. A crazy all-night club-night saw colourful costumed ravers doing some serious partying to the 1960s sounds from the man they call ‘the father of techno’.

Gateshead was surreal and similar – at the elegant The Sage concert hall, stretching on the banks of The Tyne across from Newcastle like a beached giant armadillo. The afternoon was a sedate lecture (which I was priviledged to introduce, stating that if it wasn’t for the 1960s electronic music pioneers we just wouldn’t have the rich audio landscape today, and I for one would probably not be an electronic musician.) Jean-Jacques demonstrated a little of his tape loop technique with splicing block, followed by the debut screening of Mal Meehan‘s excellent interview film “Life Laughter and Loops” (available to buy soon!).

We retired for dinner in the city filled with stag and hen revellers in bunny costumes and nun’s costumes, a surreal setting for equally surreal conversation with Dick Mills who claims more people are interested in his specialist knowledge of tropical fish than his legacy as the director of BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop.

jean jacques perrey live Dana with CD

The evening show was marvellous – a mixture of classic old and new tunes including ‘Strangers in the Night’ and ‘E.V.A‘ with wacky and disturbing tape loops. What amazed me was the spirit and energy of the audiences – all kinds of people of all ages – can-can-ing, grooving to this crazy, catchy music. There were some very young (18-20) folks, perhaps discovering this ‘ancient’ music through BitTorrenting, Wikipedia and other amazing means of transfering knowledge and music today – before their parents came to collect them. (How rock n roll is it to go to a gig to see someone your granddad’s age?!).

jean jacques perrey live

Here’s some videos I took (on YouTube) to give you a flavour of the atmosphere from the floor, at appalling low quality!!

E.V.A.:

Cat In The Night:

Crazy Russian dance song (not sure title):

Sunday 2nd March:
In whistlestop fashion, I took in a few highlights including artist talks about the Broadcast Yourself exhibition and a yummy brunch at the fantastic community run Star and Shadow artspace and cinema. The exhibition concerned the historic context of arts in broadcast television, of which there are painfully few examples. In included clips of ‘art sabotage’ taking over the broadcast airwaves in guerilla fashion in USA and South America, and discussion of new works including a community TV project in a Mumbai market by Shaina Ananad and Nottingham’s own Active Ingredient discussing their fun new work for Make TV “Fantasy A-List Generator”, decontextualising celebrity interviews whilst encouraging the exhibition viewer to dress up in a disguise and become a fake celebrity.

I must admit that in the manner of many discussion by ‘serious’ artists, a lot of the debate traversed my non-art PhD bear-like brain like a passing corcorde, but it’s interesting to note that the nature of broadcast media is radically changing, offering new platforms for pure art visual content, yet meaning that the impact caused through wider distribution of visual fine arts will be lost. This exhibition will simply not exist in 10 years.

I scooted by ‘Works for Television’ inside a caravan on the high street, looping art works with industrial, textural themes in a cosy, nano-complex, en route to the outstanding Baltic art gallery, a Tate-style contemporary gallery serving as exemplar of Newcastle’s amazing regeneration. I was struck this visit just how gentrified and dynamic the city is today. John Cage’s Variations VII for various industrial sound-reproducing equipment had been recreated and rerecorded for the festival and was presented in both its original and new recording, which are striking different, I guess as result of the combination of a) a new interpretation and b) the variations of new, digital devices.

An evening show by Warp lovelies Autechre (after a very windy, cold circular journey where my destination was always ‘just left and left again’ according to the always accommodating locals) rounded off my visit. But I didn’t get it: it was more chin-scratching dance music that no one was dancing too. Something has gone wrong here that child-like electronic music from the 60s have the old and young up and grooving, whereas so called intelligent dance music has people densely thinking and not dancing. And maybe not even thinking.

So there you have it. Just a sample, but the programme of AV Festival was jam-packed with art and audio goodies across the North-East and would have definitely warranted a longer stay. I very much look forward to checking out the next AV Festival in 2010.

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