UK Electronica - Electronic Music Festival
UK Electronica - Electronic Music Festival
Woughton Campus, Milton Keynes, September 3rd 1983
With hindsight you could say that a festival of electronic music organised by EM fans, for EM fans, would be an undisputed success from the outset, but an unhealthy lack of funds made it look, initially, as if the event would never get off the ground. However, the patience and perseverance of the organisers paid dividends in the end as on the day ticket sales and attendance more than justified the idea of the festival.
For the benefit of those who didn't attend, the festival gave people the opportunity to check out both old and new electronic music releases, chat to various fan clubs, artists and magazines, watch various synthesizer demonstrations from OSCar, Elka and alphaSyntauri or simply relax in front of the large video screen showing Tangerine Dream, Jean-Michel Jarre and Klaus Schulze videos (to name but three).
A series of daytime concerts were also held in what is normally a sports hall, the acoustics of which did slightly detract from the pleasure of the music. A continual flow of soloists and bands kept the often capacity audience entertained with live music, including Big Amongst Sheep and Californian experimentalist, Jasun Martz, whose interesting brand of music relied heavily upon a variety of pots and pans which were used as drums.
Ex-Throbbing Gristle duo Chris and Cosey played one long number centred around a pulsating sequence that underpinned an industrial synth backing, whilst Cosey contributed erratic fuzz-phased bottleneck guitar phrases and sexily-intoned echoed vocals.
Further concerts by Paul Nagle, Ron Berry and Hawkwind members Dave Brock, Harvey Bainbridge and Nik Turner elicited enthusiastic responses, especially the latter trio whose numerous devotees managed to pack out the hall completely. Unfortunately, a dodgy PA system (for which the organisers proffer their humble apologies) marred their otherwise excellent set, but the audience didn't seem to worry too much.
For me, the highlight of the afternoon was the solo performance given by Ian Boddy, of an as yet untitled work based principally on the Yamaha DX7 synth he proudly owns. The piece I was informed will form the basis of his next album, and was characterised by the ingenious use of dynamics - light and shade being the key to all successful music in my book.
A clever arrangement of synth and bass sequences from the CSQ 100, as well as an unusually programmed TR606 drum pattern provided the backing whilst Ian played melodic solos on an SH-09. Considering the short amount of time he's spent on the DX7, Ian Boddy's command of its velocity sensing capabilities was used to great effect to inject a refreshing expressiveness into his music. The audience loved it. Ian Boddy is one of several performers appearing on the day who I feel sure are going to grow in public stature.
Three performances were lined up for the evening concerts which got underway around 8pm with a fairly stunning 'divertisement' by Mark Jenkins (that name seems to ring a bell!). Dressed in white jumpsuit he treated us to a piece that managed to incorporate every make of equipment under the sun; from the opening gurglings of an alphaSyntauri to the ear-piercing solos on OSCar, MiniMoog and Liberation synths, all held together by a maze of monophonic and polyphonic sequences generated from the Wasp and Prophet 600 synthesizers.
Next on stage was Mark Shreeve, ably assisted by his brother Julian on Juno 60 and Korg MS20, and Mark Jenkins (again). Between them they played four pieces including three tracks from Mark Shreeve's latest album - ' Angel of Fire','System Six' and the title track 'Assassin'.
The sound of a reverberant TR808 drum machine kicked off the first number, 'Flagg', especially composed for the event. The heavy 4/4 beat interspersed with chord stabs on the Juno 60s gave added credence to a melodic, flowing Pro-One solo by Mr Shreeve.
The message of 'Angel of Fire' was nicely reinforced by the spurious addition of dry ice and slides of red flames cast upon a screen at the front of the stage. The closing number, however, stole the show as blue and green lasers cryptically enscribed the word 'Assassin', across the back wall of the auditorium whilst a sustained string chord gradually built in volume until the TR808 rhythm took off. The main bass riff entered to forge out a musical foundation on which all three performers built beautifully. Dramatic chord changes on the first beat of each bar emphasised the military nature of the tune as repeating Yamaha CS30 and Pro-One solos increased octave by octave until the tension climaxed in loud white noise bursts that signalled the all-too-soon end of the performance. The rapturous applause did not unfortunately herald a deserved encore, as time was running short.
The last act of the night (and presumably the person everybody had come to see) was Robert Schroeder. Perhaps I had been spoiled by the dynamism of the previous performance but the slow, gradual build-up of the first Schroeder number came as an unwelcome contrast this late in the evening, even though the silhouetted movements of the drummer and guitarist managed to keep my interest.
Things improved as the music moved into a fast six note sequence from the Aix La Chappelle custom digital sequencer. Swept chordal backing from the PPG Wave 2.2 sustained interest as the music quickly moved into a 'pedal' drone section over which Schroeder added a spicy, Arabic flavoured Multimoog solo, supported by hollow, flanged voice samples on his PPG.
The continual stop/start nature of the pieces began to irritate after twenty minutes and I just longed for some traditional Tangerine-type simple sequences. These never materialised as Schroeder brought the first set to a sudden close. Although an Apple II computer was evident on stage which, I concluded, must have been driving the second PPG and/or MiniMoog, I was still left with the distinct impression that Herr Schroeder was miming some of the time!
The second set revealed the previously hidden drummer and guitarist who opened the number with a cyclic, broken arpeggio figure on his classical guitar. String chords on the PPG mapped out a harmonic structure as the music metamorphosed into 'Harmonic Ascendant'.
Pulsating lasers and a purple backlight picked out the keyboardist as he played several moody, atmospheric chords against an echoed percussion break as the song slowly transformed into a dynamic, repeating sequence. This faded almost immediately to a heavy bass drone that signalled the final refrain as the music ended on a long, portamento chord.
Schroeder left the stage to mild-mannered, polite applause and everybody sensed that he would not return. His performance had washed over me, suffering from mis-pacing; a shame really as the sounds in themselves were pretty interesting.
The whole day's events had run smoothly, due in no small part to the hard work of M.C. Bob Cutts and his band of helpers from the Pulse Electronic Music Klub. All of the artists who appeared, did so free of charge which is a pleasant surprise in these money-grabbing days. Finally, congratulations all round to everybody concerned for making the event possible, especially Dennis and Jeanette Emsley (of Inkeys cassette magazine) who, it is rumoured, are deep in negotiation at this very moment preparing for the next UK Electronica!
Show Report by Ian Gilby
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