Monday, March 26, 2007


Headliner:Optronica Lab - Rechenzentrum
Support: Reactable, Ultre + Flate E, Vitascope
Venue:National Film Theatre, London, 16th March 2007

Optronica is a 5 day festival celebrating the combination of visuals with music. The lab took place in NFT screen 1 on the Friday evening. Four live performances, with accompanying visuals on the big cinema screen.

The first performance was by Glasgow’s Vitascope, a quirky blend of electronica and animation. Each piece of his sound was represented by a graphic, combining to give an abstract piece of animation, like some of the jazzy animations from the past. Low fi imagery which was fun to follow, tracking audio and visual patterns as they unfolded.

The next performance was by brothers Ultre and Flat-E from Sheffield, who have been a part of the Warp scene over the years. One provided sound, sampling scrapes and notes from a home made single string bowed instrument, laying it up, combining it with vocal sounds, into a dense noise scape. At times adding beats to make it more accessible and Warpy sounding. The other brother mixed in visuals, heavy on a sheep skull and bones, before switching to city scapes, touring buildings and night lights, before finally switching to crisp mechanisms, little things ticking away, gears and triggers.

The third performance was by a Spanish duo, Reactable, and was the most technical of the evening. Coming from a Spanish university, the pair had developed a table top solid object based music system which simulated the kind of techniques found in many music software systems. With a high resolution camera beneath the table top, each object they placed on top of the table had a set of parameters that could be manipulated by touch and movement. These affected the sound that the audience could hear, and the visuals that were translated onto the big screen. At times the sound was patchy, as the pair moved things about till they got the effect they were going for. But it was fascinating to watch, to see instruments and effects built up and manipulated and shifted.

The headliners were the Berlin electronica duo Rechenzentrum. However there was a delay in the start of their set as technical difficulties finally kicked in. Which was filled with a Q&A session with Reactable discussing how they had put together their piece, followed by a similar discussion with one of the Ultre/Flat-E brothers. Finally Rechenzentrum were ready to go, their downbeat easy going electronica mixed with pre-composed black and white and moody visuals. After some of the clever sets that had gone before, this seemed a bit contrived at times, just as though we were watching something that had been pre-recorded. Still the set was pleasant enough, though we did end up leaving early as things ran so late.

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