Live Reviews: i-and-e festival

Fergus Kelly/Judith Ring, Will Guthrie, Joe Colley, Wade Matthews/Andrea NeumannPrinting House, Trinity College, Dublin, 30 March 2007In its three-year existence, the i-and-e festival has become one of the most interesting annual events in Dublin. The purpose...

Fergus Kelly/Judith Ring, Will Guthrie, Joe Colley, Wade Matthews/Andrea Neumann
Printing House, Trinity College, Dublin, 30 March 2007

In its three-year existence, the i-and-e festival has become one of the most interesting annual events in Dublin. The purpose of the festival is to bring some of the best artists working in the field of electro-acoustic improvisation to town for a weekend of evening and afternoon shows.

There’s certainly no lack of talent nowadays in this particular genre; although there’s a bit of debate as to what to call the music (lowercase, New Silence and onkyo being only three of the terms that show up in the press), it hasn’t stemmed the growth in the number of people using a combination of electronics and acoustic instrumentation in an improvisational setting.

i-and-e has been crucial in bringing together musicians in this field. Along with showcasing home-grown artists like David Lacey, Dennis McNulty and Gavin Prior, acclaimed international artists such as Keith Rowe, Mark Wastell, Rhodri Davies, Annette Krebs and many others have also made appearances.

Although past years’ festivals have favoured the quieter side of the music – minute-long stretches of total silence weren’t uncommon – this year’s festival got off to a rather noisy start with four excellent performances. First up was the duo of Judith Ring and Fergus Kelly, the former on laptop and the latter on a homemade contraption that he calls ‘The Cabinet of Curiosities’. Ring tended to keep a lower profile with background bass rumbles, styrofoam-like squeaks and watery melodies, while Kelly stoically attacked his Cabinet with a hand-held air fan and violin bows.

Using a tableful of miked-up springs, snare drums, cymbals, empty boxes, a transistor radio and countless other knick-knacks, Australian Will Guthrie’s set came as something of a surprise. He managed to use all that gear to create some astonishingly lifelike noises: distant thunder rolling across a field, the mournful pealing of church bells and even a Lilliputian building site, complete with jackhammers, power saws and rattling chains.

Joe Colley was certainly the most hilarious act of the evening. The Californian threw himself completely into his set, with eyes closed and head banging as he blasted out some seriously demented noise. I’m not sure exactly what he was using – some sort of theremin-like thing that changed sound as he waved it around and a machine that sounded exactly like one of those electric mosquito-zappers – but he sure looked like he was having fun using them. With his surfer-boy looks and his moronically unsubtle music, it was like a Brian Wilson-fronted Wolf Eyes. Altogether great.

The final act was the duo of Andrea Neumann on ‘inside piano’ and Wade Matthews on laptop. Neumann’s instrument is exactly what she described it as: the inside of a piano, which she would pluck, scrape with steel wool and generally mess around with. Matthews tended to take a back seat, generally following Neumann’s lead rather than direct the music himself. It was the quietest set of the evening, although that’s a relative term: there were moments where it felt like being trapped in a box of Rice Krispies, and there were plenty of cartoony boings and sproings. And so another i-and-e festival gets off to a great start…

Published on 1 May 2007

Paul Watts is a DJ, promoter and radio host. He lectures in theoretical physics at UCD.

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