Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Review // Future Everything Festival

Afternoon! Late last month I was sent down to Manchester's Future Everything Festival for Crack Magazine. Held in various venues of theatres, basments and galleries, Future Everything marries the look at digital innovations across art, music, sport and a whole range of diverse subjects. I caught Evian Christ's curated evening at The RNCM and Darkside at The Ritz, which you can read over here- or below for the full copy, penned in collaboration with Joe Goggins. You can also read it in print by picking up Issue 40 with Pixies on the cover!
Future Everything @ Various Venues
FutureEverything’s premise is one that favours all things forward-thinking. Taking place across Manchester over the course of seven days, their mission to host shows from contemporary music artists at the forefront of innovation as well as art exhibitions, conceptual events and industry conferences is a vision to behold. Crack’s FutureEverything experience kicks off on Thursday night with an appearance from Darkside. Nicholas Jaar and Dave Harrington’s collaborative project brought an eclectic bout of prog-imprinted, tension building electronica to the back end of 2013. With mirror-led visuals that breeze beams of darkness through to a spectrum of colours, the experience feels somewhat transcendental, moody yet sanguine, as melodies and bodies melt into one another, accentuating the deeper levels that cross over live on tracks such as Golden Arrow and Paper Trails.   
 With the city’s Royal Northern College of Music welcoming in an Evian Christ-curated evening, held in its seated theatre, there was uncertainty as to whether or not the formal space would enhance the atmosphere or, alternatively, swallow it whole. TCF, a blackened-out figure before us, projects swirling bass that immerses with his film-score-worthy-weird manipulations. His brave efforts set off abstractly and just a throw too-far leftfield for many in attendance. London’s Visionist immediately follows, marrying his ghostly take on radical, nocturnal grime. A glacial, dubbed-out half hour ensues, forming the most club-worthy set of the night. It’s admirable to watch how this plethora of future-thinking artists adapt with the theatrical environment, especially with the aid of artist Emmanuel Biard, whose lighting spectacular set to the abrasive elements of Evian Christ’s set provides the most amazing part of the evening. 
To say that Julianna Barwick’s set at the RNCM Theatre is more than the sum of its parts would be an enormous understatement; she spends the 40-minute slot stood behind a keyboard, but in truth she barely uses it. It’s the mess of samplers and pedals at her disposal that form the crux of the performance, as she creates a veritable cornucopia of lush soundscapes using little more than her own voice, generously looped. Every time the mass of loops threatens to bubble over into cacophony, she dials them back down in impressively soothing fashion. Tim Hecker’s headline performance, meanwhile, couldn’t be further removed. 
 He’s just barely discernible amongst the shadows as he takes the stage in a pitch-dark theatre, and you spend the first few minutes wondering when the visuals are going to kick in – only to realise, eventually, that there aren’t any. Hecker delivers his entire set in almost total darkness, and it’s a complementary environment; his dark, foreboding sound, often beautiful on record, is utterly punishing live. We spotted a fair few heading for the exits early during a brutal, reverb-laden opening ten minutes. What they missed was a tantalising reinvention of what live electronic music should represent. Enjoyable seems like the wrong word, but exhilarating? Absolutely. 
 And as in previous years, a major part of FutureEverything’s remit was to explore how we interact with sound, and to experiment with it; it wasn’t simply a case of putting on live events. In keeping with that, one of the major installations at the vast ‘pop-up urban experiment’ City Fictions project was BUQS, which saw ninety Ubiquitous Electronic Lifeforms scattered across the city. The devices – produced, as demonstrated at New City Square, using 3D printers – were constructed of plastic casing and contained sensors and motors that allowed them to pick up basic information about their environment and relay them sonically, encouraging direct interaction with the BUQS with user-unique results. Their resemblance to giant insects was intended to conjure up imagery of ‘infestation’, with the suggestion that the units were able to ‘hack’ the landscape, leaving spectators with the resonant reminder that in urban environments, often the most omnipresent technology is near-invisible. 
We entered FutureEverything with a desire to broaden our horizons, and left with shattered preconceptions and with fresh ideas buzzing around in our minds. Looking at the forecasts of digital culture, proving that music is continuing to explore exciting, uncharted new territory and even handing out 130,000 copies of a fictional newspaper issue from 2018, FutureEverything is both inspiring and, at times, somewhat overbearing. If there’s one thing we’ve learnt, it’s that the future is coming, so we might as well embrace it.

Words By Yours Truly & Joe Goggins X
 Images by Gary Brown and Matt Eachus

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