Oscilanz & Distractfold @ Cafe Oto: Oscillate Distractedly

The Kammer Klang series introductory event for 2016 typically challenged the mind, as much as the senses. In a nonconformist gathering of vocal, instrumental and electroacoustic works, 21st-century angst met 12th-century spirituality at Dalston's Cafe Oto.

The digital dynamics of Lee Fraser
Jennifer Walshe and Juliet Fraser, two inspiringly uninhibited vocal performers, first grabbed their seats on stage, ready to confront the mic. Between delirious ramblings and abrupt silences they presented Louis d'Heudières "Laughter Studies", piecing together otherwise ordinary scenes from our everyday lives - from a cheerful TV audience to birds chirping. And, between the laughter, somehow, the two ladies ended up crying. It was the power of seemingly unnoticed background noise, a kind of "C2 to... Victoria" line playing on a loop on London buses, a minute acoustic detail probably as pleasant as a dripping tap in the middle of the night. Yet, nobody seems able to react to this forced modern plexus of cacophony that Laughter Studies shoots to the forefront of our consciousness. Despite the poor birds chirping in between, and its obvious sense of humour, it has the power to bring a whole lot of us 21st-century dwellers to tears.

Distractfold perform Michelle Lou
Distractfold and their assortment of contemporary composers took over next. Rebecca Saunders "Vermillion", for clarinet, electric guitar and cello, Lee Fraser's fixed piece"Stheno", for loudspeakers and Michelle Lou's "Untitled three part construction", for amplified cello and two object-performers further reflected on the motifs of urban unease, creeping horror and sonic distress, in this writer's eyes at least, jumping from acousmatic aggression to mechanical malfunction and syncopated noise. Obedient and rebellious at once, the performers executed calculated orders that halfway, somehow went caustically wrong. It was the unruly echo of 21st advancement - technology, mechanical engineering, our modern consumer lifestyle all drawn for sophisticated traveling into the future and yet, they collectively miss their true target. Construction meets deconstruction in a cultural pell-mell.

Oscilanz in early/contemporary action
Finally Oscilanz were there to bring touches of alluringly re-interpreted early music based on the obscure compositions of Hildegard Von Bingen. A 12th century nun and polymath who, among other, invented her own language, she gave the band their name (Oscilanz means October in Lingua Ignota) and, with it, a mystical medieval field to explore. A trio of adventurous experimentalists in their own right, Charles Hayward (This Heat, About Group), Ralph Cumbers (Bass Clef) and Laura Cannell (Horses Brawl LCAB Fiddle Duo) marry seductive drums, trombone, fiddle, flute and electronics. The pastoral soundscapes Hildegard drew with her music now got a liberal modern revamp, where ritualistic percussion and contrasting electronics release, ironically, an almost unhindered sexuality.

Charles Hayward knows uncompromising percussion
BBC 3 was there to record the event, programmed for broadcasting come spring - a well-documented treat for the crowd that clapped enthusiastically. For new explorers and fans, Kammer Klang will be back at the cafe on March 8 with the French ensemble Soundinitiative and the Parisian electroacoustic composer-sound artist :such:.

Words & photography by Danai Molocha.

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