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Reviews/Music/Perth Festival/Visual Art

Hearing light & seeing sound

23 February 2020

The balance of restful and hectic energy in Robin Fox’s concerto for a laser beam was an absorbing experience for Eduardo Cossio.

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Review: Robin Fox, Single Origin ·
The Rechabite, 21 February 2020 ·
Review by Eduardo Cossio ·

For over a decade, Melbourne artist Robin Fox has toured the world presenting audio-visual performances where laser patterns generate sound and vice versa. Single Origin is the third instalment in an ongoing series exploring ‘mechanically induced synaesthesia’. Its West Australian premiere took place at Rechabite Hall as part of Perth Festival.

Synaesthesia, the perceptual condition where stimulation of one sense triggers the experience of another, influenced the work of early 20th century composers such as Alexander Scriabin and Olivier Messiaen. Similar multi-media ideas inspired Iannis Xenakis, whose electronic music was integral to Le Corbusier’s futuristic Philips Pavilion in 1958. Since the 1970’s, laser shows have made “seeing sounds” a more common feature of the concert experience.  

On Friday night, local act Hi. Ok, Sorry. began proceedings with a dose of their self-described Bleakwave. The purple and white washes of the stage lights provided a perfect match to the duo’s experimental techno leanings. Clad in their trademark black and white smocks, Eva Bujalka and Phoebe Avenue played behind a rack of hardware synths and sequencers. Their ambient pads and techno beats, usually delivered on their releases as mid-tempo slow burners, were presented in a hyperactive, fractured manner. A series of dance numbers were deconstructed into arrhythmical material only to be made functional again in subsequent sections.

The room went dark for Single Origin as a white beam circled the walls. It glided across the metal bars and railings of the balcony, then split into two, three and four lines patrolling the prison-like surroundings. A build-up of bass frequencies bounced around the space, adding a sense of foreboding. On stage, Robin Fox stood behind a laptop, a mixer, and what he jokingly refers to as the “Fox box”, a custom-made interface that converts electrical signal into light and sound.

Funnel-like shapes and kaleidoscopic patterns emanated from a single vanishing point above the stage. Red, green and blue lights were added to the intersecting planes that accompanied the raw and industrial sound design. At one point the lights disappeared and the whole room was shaken by a series of convulsive glitches. It seemed as if the whole sound system had been driven to malfunction.

One by-product of Fox’s visual projections is the activation of space. A more fluid architecture began to emerge, one delineated by geometric patterns that sometimes softened into blossoming configurations.

Single Origin’s sheer volume and awe-inspiring visuals created the sensory overload that some types of experimental performance seek to bring out: the dislocation of space and the intimation of larger and ungraspable psychological states. Fox’s well-thought-out production, with its balance of restful and hectic energy made for an absorbing experience from start to finish.

Pictured top: In ‘Single Origin’, funnel-like shapes and kaleidoscopic patterns emanate from a single vanishing point above the stage. Photo supplied.

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Author —
Eduardo Cossio

Eduardo Cossio is a musician active in the Perth experimental music scene. He is a presenter on Difficult Listening (RTRFM), his music reviews appear on Realtime Arts and Cool Perth Nights and he runs Outcome Unknown, a concert series of exploratory music. At the playground he would try and get some percussive sounds happening.

Past Articles

  • Unstoppable momentum

    Eduardo Cossio finds The Necks’ concert an act of discovery, full of tight corners and elegant solutions.

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  • Exhilarating and absurd

    Review: GreyWing Ensemble, ‘Text’ ⋅ The Sewing Room, October 8 ⋅ Review by Eduardo Cossio ⋅ Local ensemble GreyWing are known for performing works that mix environmental sounds with…

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