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Concert Review/ Hibernate and Home Normal’s Christmas Show

img  Tobias Fischer

It’s a well-established fact that daydreaming is good for us. Scientists have discovered that this default setting in our brain allows us to connect what we know with what is possible. Allowing for the kind of spontaneous thought that makes us feel aware, vibrant and engaged, zoning out is essential to a balanced and creative mind.  While many of us don’t need encouragement in that area, some find it hard to quiet their brain in this overstimulating technological age. Music can ease us into this state of mind like no other sensory switch. Like a direct line to our subconscious, some music can take us to places we’ve never been before.

I stole a comfy seat on the sofa near the stage at The Victoria, a pub in dark and dirty Dalston, for Hibernate and Home Normal’s Christmas extravaganza. A maiden in the land of drone, I’d never been to a gig where I couldn’t see a  traditional acoustic instrument. Instead, The stage was covered with desks, cords, boxes, more cords and a Macbook. Was Ist Das DJ whet the appetite with a kind of music that was auditory assault for my inexperienced ears. Loud and grating, inconsistent and unexpected, it blasted from the speakers.

Wil Bolton took to the stage almost unnoticed. Eventually the crowd, a blend of old men, young men, psychonauts and their ladies, wandered towards the stage. Bolton’s music fell like drops of sound landing in a trembling pool of reverb. It was melancholy and uplifting all at once.  We all enjoyed the music in our own way. Some people closed their eyes, some sat on the floor and some stood and watched the stage where Bolton’s face, was illuminated by the screen as he tweaked and typed.  Lost inside the swimming sonic landscapes, I found myself buried in nebulous thoughts and emotion I couldn’t identify. The tone shifted slowly as the layers were built up and broken down again and again. Bolton then shattered the proverbial fourth wall as glitches seeped in. The spell was broken and the set ended. Flushed and seemingly relieved, Bolton stood up and the crowd applauded.

Ithaca Trio was a different set altogether. The Macbooks were breeding. Not as listener-friendly as Bolton, Oliver Thurley’s set delivered an in utero aural experience. Muffled and muted rumbles reminded me of a recent virus where I lost my hearing. With no point of reference through which to connect, it was like auditory theatre of abstract absurdity. There were places in my subconscious that we were being poked and prodded almost involuntarily. I wasn’t having fun anymore. Thurley swayed gently as the piece grew to crescendo.  He could feel the pulse of the music, where others might merely make out indiscernible noise. While challenging to hear and understand, this music did not leave one numb or unfeeling. On the contrary, it felt anxious, tense and epic. Like reading a harrowing book or delving into mind-bending philosophical concepts, music does not always have to be a pleasurable experience.

Still, the respite of Isnaj Dui (aka Katie English) was welcome. She created layers of harmonic beauty with her flutes and rhythmic pulses by tapping the microphone and it was mixed and melted by her masterful looping.

Talvihorros (aka Ben Chatwin) wielded his guitar like a weapon on stage, creating whips and drones of gritty layers. Moody and resonant, Chatwin’s performance summoned the spirit of Ennio Morricone and Neil Young film scores. My imagination took flight during this set and I got wistful for a moment. Then it got loud. The layers built up and over and the speakers were rumbling.

Again in contrast to Talvihorros came The Boats (Craig Tattersall and Andrew Hargreaves). Danny Norbury’s heartbreaking cello was almost drowned by a cacophony of loops and layers. I’d never had to fight so hard to find aesthetic footing.  I was so busy trying to process the sound that my mind was not in the mood for wandering off. 

Another shift in tone, Machinefabriek (aka Rutger Zuydervelt, Dutch graphic designer) took to the stage. All the lights were turned off and we were left in the dark, lit only by the DJ’s string of red fairy lights and Zuydervelt’s desk lamp. This set was drastically different. Minimal in every way and unashamedly electronic in tone, I could more easily identify the repetitive looping and let my ears spike at the analogue blips and dots.

The evening ended on a note of relative calm. Konntinent (aka Antony Harrison) made music distantly familiar with rhythm and tonality. In the course of the evening I had gone from feeling panic and discomfort to delight and fascination all the while weaving through the crooked paths and surprising twists of my subconscious.

There are treasures to be found in the work of these artists for those who seek it out. It might be buried beneath pre-existing expectations of what music should be or has been, but it is there. I left The Victoria exhausted vowing never to repeat the experience. But hours and days later I found myself thinking about that night and wanting to return to that place.  A place where music can bring about a state of consciousness that normally hides in the recesses of our busy minds. The music I experienced on Sunday night allowed my mind to wander and flourish in unexpected ways.  It was life affirming, challenging and engaging. Scientists say we need to spend more time tuning out and daydreaming. We should pay closer attention to those fleeting thoughts and fantasies of our meandering minds. Hibernate and Home Normal’s Christmas show was like a mass hypnosis. It was a communal and unforgettable ride on our subconscious super highways. I will definitely be back for more.

By Lara Cory

Image by Jonathan Lees.

Homepage: Hibernate Recordings
Homepage: Home Normal Recordings

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