Power electronics (or noise music) is a daunting and very strange genre of music to get involved in. Pushing heaviness to its absolute extreme, it favours atmosphere and texture over melody. A lot of people are very quick to dismiss it because without melody, is it really music? As tonight’s evening’s entertainment manages to prove, noise music needs a certain level of context to enjoy and if you’ve not been to see live noise show then it’s something we’d highly recommend.
The evening’s proceedings begin with Warren Schoenbright, a two piece noise act that instantly set the tone. Drowning the room in darkness except for a single, dangling lightbulb from Daniel McClennan’s drum-kit, Warren Schoenbright created a beautifully minimalist atmosphere through their use of delicate electronics that were punctuated with bursts of fury. The heavier moments of the band’s music were delivered by a blistering performance from McClennan and an abrasive explosion of sharp, white noise from Matthew Pastkewicz. It was masterfully structured as well. The band’s performance played out as a single piece of music with many movements and the addition of McClennan’s drumming abilities as opposed to simply having Pastkewicz use synthetic drums added an engaging performance element to the band’s music. This was an eerie yet vicious performance that cleverly managed to build cautious tension before letting loose. This was a really fantastic start.
Sadly what followed was an odd booking that didn’t sit well with the rest of the evening’s acts. Conjurer are a death metal band that frequently drop into moments of down-tempo doom and the onslaught of guitar-derived heaviness killed the atmosphere that Warren Schoenbright had worked so well to create. Conjurer are by no means a bad band and they are clearly a very talented group of musicians, it’s just they needed to be on the bill of a death or black metal show to really work. Conjurer felt like a fish out of water and while there was plenty to enjoy thanks to their carefully structured and somewhat bleak sound, they simply killed the atmospherics that had previously bathed the venue in such a carefully crafted way.
Luckily when Caïna took to the stage, we were back in familiar territory. If you’re not familiar with Caïna as a two-piece then you might be confused as to why the black metal act were making harsh noise via a laptop and microphone. When the band tour as just Andy Curtis-Brignell and Laurence Taylor, they become a nightmarish noise act that drag their audience into the hell they create. Taylor stalks the audience with a hugely engaging yet exhausting performance that sees the man spasm and convulse around the room while screaming and howling into people’s faces. It’s a stark, vicious and haunting performance that perfectly complimented the dense wall of electronic noise and beats that were being generated by Curtis-Brignell. When you’re standing in a room being utterly drowned in atmosphere like this, noise music just makes sense. This was easily some of the best performance art we’ve witnessed.
Finally it was time for Crowhurst to take the stage. The one-man noise act from Los Angeles easily had the most oppressive sound of the evening. Crowhurst creates a hugely dense wall of sound that rattles its way into your very core. Crowhurst’s music is something you can genuinely feel and it’s this bizarre feedback-loop that keeps you connected to the music. Sadly Crowhurst suffers from not having a stronger performance element as he cannot leave his laptop to engage with his audience in the same way Caïna can. It’s also a shame that Crowhurst’s set is considerably shorter than the others as it would have been nice to spend more time in the crushing atmosphere he was creating.
Despite a booking that didn’t work in the context of the other acts performing tonight, Warren Schoenbright, Caïna and Crowhurst all delivered performances that deserve to be experienced. If you’re still on the fence about power electronics then make sure you experience it live because the dense, haunting atmosphere it creates is like nothing else in extreme music.