counting backwards 6 last thursday

Counting Backwards 6 was rather under-attended excepting Helmut Lemke's performance that opened the night.

I felt this was a bit of a shame as scheduled performers Helmut and Aht-n gave stunning performances. Audio evidence available here.

Helping fill the gap left by those who couldn't perform co-organiser Gary Fisher and I performed two collaborative improvs, one unplanned. I felt Gary performed very well during the first improv, but that the second was the one where we both came together properly.

Helmut's performance was both an auditory and a visual experience. There are photos in addition to the audio recording - see also immediately below. Although really video would have been more to the point.

Or perhaps not. It's only listening to the audio now without visual aids that I can appreciate how musical, how coherent his performance was.

On one level it could hardly be simpler. Three lengths of fishing line under tension attached to different point of the space at one end and to contact mics on a belt at the other. The belt in turn connected through a mixing desk to the PA.

The lines are then plucked, bowed, stroked, agitated with electric milk whisk, modified with pegs and pieces of metal, and sometimes tightened at other times loosened.

The variety of sounds produced and the level of control Helmut has over them though is remarkable to hear. And indeed see.

After a break Gary started the first collaborative improv between us. After a while I joined in and we played together for a while. Then Gary dropped out and I completed the set.

Gary's performance was excellent, somewhat similar to the last couple of his gigs that I've seen. I wasn't happy with what I did and haven't listened to it since.

Next up were Aht-n pictured below.

I'd seen Aht-n twice previously and somehow they'd never quite done anything for me. This time however something worked. I found the whole set compelling and absorbing which was a pleasant surprise.

Perhaps there was a greater sense of purpose. Perhaps after Gary's earlier performance I was more receptive to something slower and more meditative.

Whatever it was I remained interested and attentive through the entire set. There's less to write about in terms of visual spectacle or even obvious musical events than with Helmut. Even telling you that the music is crudely speaking ambient electronica doesn't help much.

Really you're just going to have to listen to the set.

It was for the most part impossible for the audience to work out who was making which sounds. And apparently even for the group once you reach the end of the recording.

This isn't that surprising, there are parts of mine and Gary's sets where even though we use wholly different equipment and techniques I find it hard to pull apart who did what.

For Aht-n with so much more sound kit each, and with it all being so much more similar it's no surprise.

When Aht-n finished despite there being few people remaining it felt like a shame the evening had to end. Gary (below) and I decided to embark on an impromptu improv.

I've just listened to the first improv we did. My contribution to that is less shit than I remembered. However it is notably messy and directionless with too many ideas thrown together and poorly integrated. It's certainly a contrast to the good work Gary does earlier.

The second improv on the other hand is something quite different that I'm really rather happy with. Somehow with fewer ideas going in we create something that gels far better and becomes greater than the sum of its parts.

In summary Helmut Lemke was astonishing, Aht-n were a wonderful surprise, Gary was consistently good, and after a shaky start I pulled my shit together by the end.


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