ISAN/Hauschka & Hildur Guðnadóttir, Kings Place, King’s Cross, London, 26/02/2010


Posted on Feb 26th 2010 01:06 am

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Open Waters: ISAN / Hauschka & Hildur Guðnadóttir King’s Place, King’s Cross, London, 26/02/2010

The Bubbly Blue And Green is a four-day festival which celebrates water in its many forms, put together by the excellent Arctic Circle crew in the pristine surroundings of King’s Place in King’s Cross, London, with performances from  Philip Jeck, Janek Schaefer, Samphire Band, The Sleeping Years, Hildur Guðnadóttir, Iarla O’Lionaird, The London Snorkelling Team, Paper Cinema and The Willkommen Orchestra. The second evening of the BBAG welcomed the gentle electronics of ISAN and the textured classical brushes of Hauschka, accompanied for the occasion by Icelandic cellist Hildur Guðnadóttir, who is also due to perform as part of the festival on Saturday.

ISAN’s elegant and fluid blend of electronica lends itself to watery connotations, and their set, played on a backdrop of remote Scandinavian snowed in landscapes, certainly fitted the bill, Antony Ryan and Robin Saville using a ‘dripophone’, a contraption which sole purpose seemed to amplify dripping water, for the first two somewhat quiet tracks, an issue with feedback preventing a louder use of the ‘instrument’, it appeared. These two first pieces were definitely on the more ambient side of the pair’s work, the first slowing emerging from light bells to implant a slow groove into a placid sequence, while the second, led by a rolling rhythmic pattern from early on allowed the pair to bridge this first part of their set with the more upbeat and familiar second half. The constant sound of water dripping and shimmering bells, combined with the pictures projected in the background, seemed a tad predictable yet worked to create the impression of melting snow. As the pair signals that the dripophone wouldn’t be used any further, they switched to performing a handful of recognisable pieces, which, while rendering their dreamy electronics with precision, never entirely grabbed the attention.

The second half of the evening promised to be radically different, with Hauschka and Hildur Guðnadóttir teaming up for a rare performance. After a short introduction, during which he explained the piece that was to be performed later, evoking as source of inspiration five Pantone colours, then dismissing them for being too uniform to fully evoke the ever changing tones of the sea, Volker Bertelmann took to the prepared piano and performed three solo pieces, playing with the various dissonances, resonances, vibrations and distortions his instrument was submitted to, natural rounded piano sounds only occasionally surfacing intact amidst the clouds of other noises, his wonderfully evocative motifs, while suffering substantial distortions, appeared intensely vibrant and light. Riding the relentless waves of a tape loop for his final solo piece, Bertelmann concluded his set with a more contrasted performance, before welcoming Hildur Guðnadóttir. As Bertelmann cast the first notes of their performance, she began with light motifs at first, intensifying them as the piano became more present, the pair rapidly reaching a high level of density before they proceeded to slow down drastically, ending with just a few breathy pulses.

For the second piece, inspired by the temperamental North Sea, Guðnadóttir began with some  warm drone forms before progressively adding some rhythm to her set, her bow undulating with increased tenacity as Bertelmann’s piano sounds gave a stark tempestuous counterpoint. The most dramatic piece of the evening, the third ‘movement’ saw  Guðnadóttir building layer upon layer of textures, then applying on top a vivid melody, while Hauschka, at first using a bunch of loose horse hair to bow the strings of his piano, then taking once again his place at the keyboard, responded to the intensity of the cello by casting dissonant tones around it. The next two pieces saw the two adopt a much more reflective mood, the warm melodic tones of the cello contrasting with the cooler metallic hues of the piano on the first one, while Guðnadóttir’s use of mournful glissando on the second half of the latter piece evoked haunting sirens songs as they continuously came crashing on Bertelmann’s surprisingly delicate motifs and looped textures, keeping the attention of the audience until the last breath of sound had finally died.

Returning for a last improvised piece, with the aim to continue on the ‘sinking’ theme of the last two pieces, as they both described them, Bertelmann, possibly hit by a sudden change of heart, engaged in a sustained modulated theme, echoed by dense brushes of cello. As both instruments ebbed and flowed in unison, their was a great level of symbiosis between the two musicians, Bertelmann eyes fixed on Guðnadóttir, her eyes closed, as to absorb every last moment of the performance.

The Bubbly Blue And Green festival is on at King’s Place until Saturday 27th February.

ISAN | ISAN (MySpace) | Hauschka | Hauschka (MySpace) | Hildur Guðnadóttir | Hildur Guðnadóttir (MySpace)
Arctic Circle | King’s Place

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