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A review by James Buxton w for EXTRA! EXTRA!


Short Circuit:  A Festival of Eletronica presents


Raster- Noton and Mute


12 – 15 May 2011






  12 May 2011



Short Circuit festival at the Roundhouse is a veritable smorgasbord of avant-garde Electronica. Whether you are experimenting with hardware synths and frequency modulators downstairs with Berlin based boutique, Schnieders Buero, head nodding in the Studio Theatre, or soaking up the sine waves in the cavernous confines of the Roundhouse, Short Circuit will hit you like a defibrillator to the chest.

For the opening night, hosted by experimental, German label Raster-Noton, 116 black tables have been set, in the manner of an awards ceremony in the soaring circular auditorium, creating a hallowed atmosphere for patrons to sit back and ponder the sonic manipulations. The restrained environment itself has a paradoxical effect of depriving one of the main maxims of electronic music - to dance, but at the same time, it is in keeping with the tight control of Electronica, the dominatrix of music genres.

 Alva Noto, and Academy Award winning pianist Ryuichi Sakamoto premier their new piece tonight, introducing us to a cerebral soundscape. Sakamoto’s dream-like ramblings of piano keys merge with Noto's overwhelming bass in a sonic swamp. The piano sustain shimmers amid the reverberations of bass tremors at a frequency so low it leaves your rib cage quaking. Their Brian Eno remix of By The River combines the softness of piano with sonar like bleeps of feedback. The duo creates a somnambulant atmosphere. Sakamoto’s piano playing is so delicate and fragile, his music feels engulfed in an electronic womb. At the end of their final track, as Sakamoto slowly lifts his hands from the keys, there is the sense that he has genuinely constructed the silence, to allow the music to enter into.

As the night progresses the sounds become more menacing. Atom TM opens with a track that sounds like a phone signal interfering with the speakers. He makes rhythms and loops out of glitches, thuds and crackles. Atom TM stands between the two screens like Spock on the Starship Enterprise, illuminated under a spotlight. Glitched visuals of a rosebush play on one screen while on the other, his interface of green code on a black background show his technical wizardry. The tingling vibrations, the whip of the snare, the chatter of hi-hats are a hypnotic force, exerting their dark dominion as the letters A T O M are repeated, their sound so enforced they almost become detached from their semantic connotations. Images of contour grids roll on the screen in response.

Atom TM’s music is visually evocative, so with a little poetic licence, and in the spirit of experimentation I include here some of the images and sensations they brought to my mind. Scythe sweeping. Globular pulsations. Stuttering automatons erring in a distorted frequency. Womb-swamp. Gulping tingles. Visuals of static. Sticky gum beats. Smacking spat, hiss. Evolving mechanised shapes. Angular sound. Teeth bite into a rhombus. Atom TM is a sonic pioneer moving beyond “music” into a realm of unknown sounds, limited only by the frequencies of the human ear.

Byetone headlines the night with his own unique evolution of Techno. His pounding surge of beats creates an insistent escalation of sound, as the stutter of flashing coloured lines on the screens intensify the audio-visual impact. Byetone drives us forward, into the climax, his slamming drums fusing with the flashes of white pillars of light. His music has a metallic sheen, each bass note like a ball bearing smacking into a piece of sheet metal. Numbers on each screen count the seconds upwards. This is powerful, adrenalin pumping music, and as the sound waves cut through the speakers, a wall of sound crashes into us, releasing with it a paradoxical expansiveness.

Short Circuit is a live wire of a festival but at this opening night the audience may be perhaps too earthed to the ground. Electronic music is potent stuff and Raster-Noton's performers are certainly charged with an absorbing current that gradually radiates its hypnotic quality within the audience. At the risk of sounding “spiritual” it is interesting to consider how the low frequency bass vibrations may also be tapping into one’s root chakras and in turn how Electronica can have an almost orgasmic effect on your body.  Atom TM and Byetone's music is like a toke of a menthol cigarette, as fresh as it is insidious. So close your eyes and allow the abstraction to electrify your central nervous system as it reverberates in the echo chambers of your body.



Chalk Farm Road,

Box Office: 0844 482 8008
Fri 13 May - £30 (6pm-3am)
Sat 14 May - £45 (12pm-12am)
Fri & Sat – £75




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