Music / ambient soundscapes

Review: AMRA, Spike Island

By amy grace, Saturday Nov 30, 2019

As a Fine Art graduate my past is littered with various music/art/performance events, nowadays they’re few and far between. Considering art and music are two closely linked mediums, I’m surprised that I’ve not seen more events that celebrates these worlds colliding. AMRA was an amalgamation of performance, soundscapes and ritualistic chanting. The event took place in the back of Spike Island, brutalist exposed concrete made the building incredibly cold but I was well layered up. It was dramatic and the soundsystem was booming with a set from DJ EC Ryder (Isaac Stacey, a fellow Fine Art Alumni), he was spinning vinyl which varied from low drone effects to didgeridoos and percussion driven beats.

Donned in a floral, floor length robe Abbas Zahedi weaved his way through the crowd spritzing rose water. His presence was mighty, he manipulated the space and throughout his performanced. He created interventions, pockets of people gathered around him whilst he was chanting and reaching down to stroke the concrete floor. The backdrop had projections of flowers in bloom whilst the backing track was weighted with thumping bass and swirling helicopter-like sound effects. The soundtrack then built up to what I can only describe as industrial sound effects, it felt as though someone was using a disc cutter right next to me. It was piercing and sharp and the perfect interlude to Abbas’s spoken word, which ultimately, was the highlight of the night.

Speaking of identity, culture and the reason why he chose rose water and not urine – there was even a dig at Jackson Pollock which garnered a few laughs – Abbas delivered a sombre yet rich performance. Fluctuating between spoken word and MC’ing, his voice was now the backing track and the main focal point. Sharp intakes of breath and heavy stresses on the letter ‘K’ interrupted the flow which left an imprint on me long after I’d left.

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During the gaps between performances, DJ EC Ryder headed back to decks and I headed to McColl’s to grab a bag of crisps (Walkers Max Paprika incase you were wondering). Electronic artist Tadleeh was next on the bill, the backdrop was now a burnt red colour which added an artificial warmth to the icy warehouse. Her set was atmospheric and had a real sense of drama, swooping slivers of percussion and mechanical-like sound effects elevated her set. Tadleeh was using the space to walk back and forth lazily, singing scales into the microphone. It had airs of Annie Lennox and misty nights at The Berghain. These vocals were often distorted and covered in effects whilst still remaining melodic.

Ending the nights proceedings was the collective known as AMRA, consisting of Paul Purgas of Emptyset and Imran Perretta, the current exhibiting artist at Spike Island. They began by lighting incense ritualistically, things were idle with a low humming bass and grasshopper sounds. As the night progressed things were cranked up several notches including the the audience’s vocal channels. During the pockets of silence in their set, the crowd took this as a chance to talk amongst themselves which was a little distracting and disturbing.

The visuals which were projected onto the backdrop were complex diagrams which changed depending on music levels, they contorted in time to the music but sadly there were short lived. I’m not sure whether or not the complexity of their music or the sheer volume kept triggering it to trip but this clearly affected the duo. There was a lot of chatting back and forth whilst the visuals tried to get fixed, there was static and glitching which ultimately resulted in a black backdrop. Their set was technically challenging and reminded me of cycling past Blue Mountain late at night, throbbing drum and bass which seeps out on the streets.

In all my years of attending gigs and festivals, I’d never heard a bass so intense before. It felt at though I was being choked and it was quite unsettling. I’m not sure if this was the intent of their work but I felt suffocated and eventually left as it made me feel uneasy.

Read more: Imran Perretta: The Destructors 

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