phil minton and audrey chen at international anthony burgess foundation


Yesterday (Thursday 13 January 2022) Phil Minton and Audrey Chen performed at Manchester's International Anthony Burgess Foundation. I went along with my ticket, mask, and negative lateral flow test at the end of a long walk around Manchester and Salford after work. One of the few good things about shorter days is the increased chance of seeing things like the rat running around a carpark by Salford Shopping Centre, and the large fox later in the walk with food liberated from a bin. I mean there are foxes and parakeets near my gaff, but mostly it's squirrels and magpies, and it's more fun when you're out and about. Anyway, irrelevant urban wildlife aside, I underestimated the distance of the walk and had to do a couple of loops before heading in.

First up was Minimum Wage Immanence Unit (David Birchall, guitar; Adam Fairhall, accordion; Michael Perrett, bass clarinet, and; guest Odie Ji Ghast, voice). They started sparse, quiet, and tentative. Then began to fill out, lasting longer, overlapping more, negotiating directions, and initially settling into harmonised drones. The instruments periodically echoing aspects of the voice. Mists of sound swirling round each other. The voice or one of the instruments taking turns to break away, to make the music denser, louder, or quieter, more spacious. Phrases emerging and sinking away again. Receding and regathering. Drones, interweaving textures and fragments of melody, rhythm. As is usual my eyes were closed and fragmentary images and words played alongside the music. And then we were dropped out and the set was over. Loved it.

Next was Richard Scott with modular synthesizer. And I apologise, synths, laptops and other electronic boxes are beyond me. I don't really know how they work, and often find their sounds unappealing. Not the case here, but I'll still struggle to write anything illuminating. The first noises were organic-seeming, even humorous. They developed from abstraction to more formed and regular patterns. Sounds crossed and churned, formed architectural shapes. Later some very satisfying tones emerged, especially in the lower frequencies. These felt or somehow almost seen - in particular with eyes closed - more than they were heard.

Finally Phil Minton and Audrey Chen. Just voices. Absolutely my shit. A fairly minimal set, inasmuch as while there were a lot of techniques on display, for the most part they settled around a small range of sounds. Clicks, groans, wails, mutters, breaths. These and more ebbed and flowed, at times Audrey leading, at others Phil, and at different times one or the other falling silent. The voices were sometimes clean, polished, precise, at others sloppy and rough by design. The music breathed, lived, spoke, was unpredictable, dynamic. It was thrilling.


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