Reviews/Multi-arts/Perth Festival

Songs to Experience – immersed in sound and vision

21 February 2022

In Songs To Experience, local beatmaker Ta-ku draws in artist friends to create a full body encounter in light, sound and wonder, writes Claire Coleman.

“Songs to Experience”, Ta-ku and Friends ·
Lawson Apartments, Perth CBD, 20 February 2022 ·

Welcome to Songs to Experience by Ta-ku and Friends.

You are in the first room, “Terminal”. It’s an arrivals lounge at the airport, but also somehow not. It’s cosier, dimmer, less sterile. 

Sure, it has a conveyor belt over by a sign reading “Emotional Baggage Claim”, but instead of porting bags to their owners, it conducts small sculptures in perspex boxes around and around in an endless loop.

A split-flap display board cycles through cryptic welcome messages rather than arrivals and departures. 

“The Moon Makes Sense Because Of You”.

“Do Not Leave Your Feelings Unattended”. 

A security guard in a Ta-ku World Air uniform looks on.

You’re probably wondering how you got here. Songs to Experience, part of Perth Festival, is the latest brainchild and upcoming album of local music producer and entrepreneur Regan Mathews, who performs as Ta-ku.

An image from Ta-Ku and friends Songs to Experience, pictured are group of people standing in a room lit up by a projector.
Each room offers a unique immersive experience. Photo: Dan Grant

Working with a swathe of artist friends, Mathews presents a six-room installation in the historic CBD art deco building Lawson Apartments. Participating artists are named in the program but not linked to their specific contribution at their own request. The work is collectively constructed.

Each room is a sensory immersion combining sound and silence, light and darkness, activity and stillness, modern technology and familiar concepts. Viewers move through at their own pace, extending or minimising particular experiences depending on individual preference.

Immediately striking is the level of detail in each space. “Two of Us” holds a marbled (the decorative effect, not the stoneware) table, dwarfed by an enormous orchid-laden arch, and set for a lavish dinner with cloches, crockery and candelabras. Lighting is garish, in hot pink and lurid green.

Ta-ku’s electronic music is more present in some rooms than others, and the structured female vocal and synthesised instrumental in “Two of Us” is the most song-like.

An image from Ta-Ku and friends Songs to Experience, pictured two women admire what appears to be an open door with a mirror that uses intricate light patterns.
The room named ‘OOOOO’ is a highlight in ‘Songs to Experience’. Photo: Dan Grant

In “Falling” the short track is tightly integrated into the dark, theatre style space. Lyrics are mouthed by four young faces projected on the wall. At first glance they seem video-real. Realising they are animated is a slightly unsettling, though not unpleasant, “uncanny valley” moment. The music fades and screen darkens, then is suddenly again brightly lit as the beat drops, in an impactful moment slightly disrupted by sound bleed from an adjacent room.

Interactive “Mood Machine” invites viewers to turn a dial in the middle of the room and cycle through audio-visuals projected on the surrounding walls. The 10 pairings of sonic excerpts by Ta-ku with different artists’ visuals vary from soft floral patterns over light piano ostinatos, to intimate footage of family events and richly processed vocals, or electro-funk backed abstract blobs in primary colours.

“Shirinda Residence” is a tranquil contrast. The room is all soft edges, with a bed as its focal point, and decorated monochromatically in creams and earth tones. Comforting textures soothe any sensory overload; crisp linen sheets, soft jersey t-shirts, matt ceramics, coarse rattan, plush carpet.

There’s no “beginning” or “ending” here, but the final room “OOOOO” happens to be my favourite. Opening a nondescript cupboard door reveals an infinity portal of neon-style circles and framing lines, with dimmer symbols projected onto a reflective surface. Cycling through a range of hues, the moving colours recede into the distance, with a restful yet lushly orchestrated RnB style vocal track.

Although in Songs To Experience the album sometimes takes a backseat to the visuals, a retro push-button telephone is provided in a booth downstairs allowing you to listen to each track separately.

Even though I left wanting to hear more of Ta-ku, ultimately the work’s sensory immersion succeeded because each part was a servant to the complete holistic experience. 

Songs To Experience continues until 6 March 2022.

Pictured top: The ‘Two of Us’ room. Photo: Dan Grant

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Author —
Claire Coleman

Dr Claire Coleman is a pop musicologist, choral conductor and musician. She trained classically in piano, but wrote her doctorate on nostalgia in indie folk, and continues to lecture remotely in pop music studies in Berlin and London. Claire compares the high of bullying strangers into singing to doing hypothetical illicit drugs, so watch out or you might end up an unwitting participant in one of her choral adventures.

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