Hellosquare are, as they kept reminding us through the course of this evening, “a small Australian label”. Humble Australians. Fancy. They made this voyage round the globe to put on a one-off show at Cafe Oto featuring some friends of the label – not just from Australia, but from Canada, Italy and the UK too. They’ve previously featured on this site thanks to releases by ex-Triosk pianist Adrian Klumpes, but they’ve quietly gone about amassing an experimental catalogue which also includes notable albums by the likes of Seaworthy, Mia Clarke and Andy Moor, M.Rosner and Mike Cooper, making this show a good time to check in with where their heads are at.
Inch Time, or Stefan Panczak, is the Australian ex-pat on the bill. After a Vangelis-like intro, He performed a very compact, or rather very Kompakt laptop set, featuring 4/4 rhythms punctuating an air of dreamy ambience. Those Wolfgang Voigt-like hisses and foggy progressions were joined in the second half of his performance deployed an increasing number of dub effects, metallic echoing sounds punctuating some slight keyboard melodies. Pleasant. Probably too pleasant for me as a live show, although Cafe Oto isn’t the right place for this sort of thing (darker and louder would have been better, even following Voigt’s lead with unsettling visuals to provide a visual counterpoint).
Unsurprisingly, the following set by Maurizio Ravalico and Isambard Khroustaliov (aka Sam Britton from Icarus), two of the Not-Applicable collective, was somewhat rougher. Ravalico was improvising on a pair of surdos, with Khroustaliov processing and interacting with him in real time. Ravalico scattered cymbals on top of his drums, rolled marbles on the skin, beat the sides with sticks, bowed the rims, and traced a wet finger across the skin. As well as being incredibly watchable (at times, the sheer number of items on his kit made this look more like a fast-paced cookery show than a musical performance), this gave Khroustaliov a huge array of sounds to work with, isolating rhythms and frequencies and throwing them back at Ravalico at breakneck speed for him to bat away. Ravalico has an album out soon (also featuring Khroustaliov, but more prominently Oren Marshall) which he describes a psychogeographic conga/tuba album, recorded outdoors in London. That sounds crackers (and a must-hear).
I’ve been a fan of Canadian Mark Templeton since the release of his excellent debut Standing On A Hummingbird album in 2007. His performance tonight began much like that album does – with no messing about, catching the dozens outside still enjoying their cigarette break by surprise with some abrasive drone. Templeton’s set was most obviously reminiscent of Fennesz or Tim Hecker, but busier – constantly bringing in new sounds from laptop (guitar, often) or cassette, treating them harshly with savage jump cuts and by panning them from side to side, then discarding them. After a middle section which sounded like bombs detonating, the table in front of him looked like a battlefield, covered in fallen D90 warriors. When the chaos subsided there was deep, submerged melody, reaching its hauntological apex with a closing treatment of Lionel Richie’s “Hello” from his forthcoming Ballads EP, extricating something quite powerful from ostensibly feeble source material. He left Richie lost and confused in an electronic sea, crooning “I wonder where you are”, as the waves of static built up and finally washed over him.