"Decomposition Theory": 65dayofstatic - Sage 2, Gateshead 24.11.2018

The house lights slowly go up, illuminating the audience that has been bathed in noise and the light of a large screen for the last 80 minutes or so. There is no encore, the machines do not allow it. I see another reviewer/photographer I know and we both quietly talk between ourselves. How do we make sense of that? How can we pluck images from the dark? How can we describe what we've seen and heard in a way that can be understood and do justice to the night?

Let's rewind back a few hours......

It's dark along the banks of the Tyne, the rain falling pretty much constantly. Everywhere is filtered with the look you only get at this time of year. The more you head away from the crowds in Newcastle city centre the more you can notice your surroundings. The tall buildings line the streets, Victorian style architecture slashed every now and again as a more modern build cuts through the past histories of the city. The wet pavements, roads, vehicles and structures reflect the various multi coloured Christmas decoration lights, adding splashes of colour in unexpected places. It's almost like a scene from "Blade Runner".

Across the Tyne that looks more like the river Styx tonight, is the Sage, an unusual soft looking building, all curves, bands of muted pastel lights beckoning us over the thin Millennium foot bridge, and soon we're walking up the stairs to the venue. Inside it's more like an airport departure lounge. I grab a coffee to sit and drink, warming myself through before picking up my ticket and heading inside the room itself.

Sage 2 is an odd room to look at. It's dark and cylindrical inside. The open floor is round with a handful of seats on a slightly raised platform. There are balcony floors above us running around the edges of the room, the coloured strip lighting reminding more of the carbonite freezing chamber in "The Empire Strikes Back" giving it quite a futuristic feel. This is no doubt aided by the laptops and other audio equipment scattered around the stage. This is not your traditional gig set up as a large screen hangs above and to the rear of the stage, ominous and foreboding.

Around eight, the room lights dim for tonight's support. Johanna Bramli takes a seat at a table cluttered with various items, a single white light illuminating her presence. She thanks us quietly for being here and starts her set. She gently taps at samplers and keys, coaxing rhythms and tones from them, chanting softly into a microphone that takes her vocal and treats it with effects so it becomes so much more than it actually is. The screen behind shows kaleidoscopic images as well as moving fields of grass and water droplets. Johanna taps her fingers on what appears to be a small wooden box, again the sound treated with reverb and echo. Strings are pulled what I can only describe as a theramin attached to a slide guitar is played with an e-bow. It's almost as if she uses the mix of technology and the arcane to summon songs from the ether, channelling them into existence. Her set is captivating as the songs wash over you and I'm more than happy to buy her cd in the interval between bands.

I'd never heard of 65daysofstatic before the option came for me to review the gig. A quick listen to some of their songs on Spotify was enough for me to confirm that they ticked several boxes for me, one being a similarity to Mogwai, the Post Punk instrumental band.

But the night would still hold several surprises for me.

A 3S&O colleague wrote the other day that sometimes it's good to go and see a band that you have no real knowledge of, so that you're not carrying any previous baggage or preconceptions. It kind of brings a purity to what you experience.

My pre gig preparation is kept deliberately shallow by myself. The band themselves have been going for a while now, their debut album "The Fall Of Math" was released back in 2004, and their most recent release as part of the soundtrack to the sci-fi exploratory game epic "No Man's Sky". The event is described in usual ways, making it sound like the band are deconstructing the idea of performance, like they're experimenting with the concept of the creative process itself.

The lights dim, slowly dipping the room into darkness. When I say darkness I mean it. The room is designed to cut out any excess light bleeding in. There's light from the audience's mobile phone screens dotted around the venue and clip on LED lights over some of the band's equipment that's scattered across the stage. The final hint of lighting comes from the large screen at the back that hangs ominously above as 65daysofstatic walk onto the stage. There's no words of introduction, no pleasantries, no posturing. There is just the dim shape of three people on the stage and the sound that rolls and pulses from speakers.

The screens occasionally shows lines of code, suggesting the deconstructionist approach that the band seem to be adopting. There's no echo of ego from the band as you just can't see them. It's all about the music. Laptops sit one a table across the front of the stage, almost like a DJ. There's samplers and sequencers scattered around, a pair of drums (no kit, just a tom and a snare), keyboards, guitars and amps, all shrouded in darkness, giving it an incredible sense of mystery.

And what of it, what of the music? It's not a set in the central sense of the word. Songs go by unnamed, instrumental in fashion. Band members walk between instruments and equipment, blurring the line of definition between the two. You get glimpses of someone playing a guitar, their arm pumping away at it, slashing away but creating a sound that sounds so far removed from what a guitar sounds like that you actually begin to question the notion that could it actually be classed as a guitar now? Or does it belong to the realms of samplers, sequencers and other machines the band employ to create this glorious sound.

To me it's almost like controlled chaos. The creative nature of performing songs, that passing of song from band to audience is completly dismantled. It takes seconds after each "song" (can these compositions even be classed as songs anymore in this environment?) for people to start applauding, receiving a wave by way of thanks from a shadowy band member. In fact, at one point it takes a little while longer for the applause to kick in, causing one of the band to chuckle to themselves, almost miraculously.

It's the devolution of musical genres by evolving how music is created, about what the purpose is. It's the soundtrack of inner city modern life, it's waiting for the cash point. It's your inner anxiety as you head to work on a Monday morning. It's about taking your preconception of music and performance, of instrument and band, taking those core ideas that we're so used to and stripping them away, layer by layer, concept by concept. There's a throb of bass frequencies, the backbone of drum beats and the ghost of melody that haunt each song.

It feels almost like a soundtrack. Somewhere in the world there is a programmer working on a dark room, hunched over a keyboard. They've been coding for over a day and half. This is the sound of what's in their head, their synapses firing away. It's a score that's partially alien, partially familiar. Some of it suggests warmth, other parts sinister. But all of it holds and draws me in.

And then it's over.

The house lights slowly go up, illuminating the audience that has been bathed in noise and the light of a large screen for the last 80 minutes or so. There is no encore, the machines do not allow it. I see another reviewer/photographer I know and we both quietly talk between ourselves. How do we make sense of that? How can we pluck images from the dark? How can we describe what we've seen and heard in a way that can be understood and do justice to the night?

I chat to the guy handling their merch as I pick up a copy of their debut album on vinyl. He tells me the band are hoping to capture this all in the studio in January. I tell him it's my first time so he asked what I thought. I said it was as if Trent Reznor recruited Richard James away from Aphex Twin to join their ranks. I take my album and head out into the night, the drones of the night's soundtrack still looping in my head for the dark, night time journey home. I need more and can't wait for the next time.

65daysofstatic - https://www.facebook.com/65propaganda/

Johanna Bramli - https://www.facebook.com/johannabramli/

Review - Scott Hamilton

Featured Posts 
Recent Posts 
Find Us On
  • Facebook Long Shadow
  • Twitter Long Shadow
  • Instagram Social Icon

© 2020 3 Songs & Out

This site was designed with the
.com
website builder. Create your website today.
Start Now