Keith Fullerton Whitman / Mohammad / Some Truths at Cafe Oto, 1st February 2013

PAN records, purveyors of weirdness and fine enlightening noise, arranged this awesome night of drone and synth chaos.  Kicking off with Some Truths the night began perfectly.  Ralph Cumbers (aka Some Truths and Bass Clef) sat at a jumble of wires and immediately conjured a thick rumble of bass.  A diversity of sounds was apparent from the start: flickering strobed static, machine gun percussive bursts, acid gloop, synapse cracking psych rumble.  It mimicked the human thought process in the way it sought paths of digression and distraction, each sound prompting the exploration of another.  The sound constantly branched and expanded; it was a fascinating attempt to contain a chaos of aural information.  In brief moments of clarity, Cumbers focussed on a repeated phrase or a sustained tone; but for the rest of the performance he allowed the synth and his imagination to run riot.  The set was completely immersive and delivered at a window rattling volume.
Next up were Mohammad.  This electrified string trio unleashed a spare but punishing performance of death-minimalism.  Sawing phased bass tones exploited the resonant properties of the room; the air was thick with low-frequency hum.  Guttural howls were interspersed with clusters of silence.  This was a measured, precise but violent set; the volume and cyclical bowing positioned the band as a chamber Sunn O))).  The playing was beautifully sparse and austere; insular and as patient as the hills while being engaging on a physical level.  The audience vibrated in their seats; I could almost feel my eyes wobbling in their sockets; I imagined my molecules being shaken apart, my body reduced to grey goo in uninhabited clothing.
Appearing in the centre of the room and gathering the audience around him like the scene with the orbiting drunks in Werckmeister Harmonies, Keith Fullerton Whitman modestly dismissed the “shit”ness of his visual display and warned the people facing the projector that they may go blind.  If Doc Brown had been present, he may said “sight, where we’re going, we won’t need sight.”  Beginning with a cushioned heartbeat and busted radio fuzz, Whitman made full use of the quad sound system; moving onto thunder cracks of fierce static, the bounce of ball bearings, sudden violent cracks and frying bacon pops.  Bubbles of human sensible rhythm occasionally emerged from a chaos of machine decision.  Aqueous burbles were followed by lightning flashes of sound that burnt silhouettes in my mind.  Sometimes a storm gathering pressure built before a release of rain-on-tin percussion; distant reverberations presaged an approaching or receding barrage.  Loud bangs illuminated a staccato non-repeating confusion of sensory information.  It was impossible to grasp any sustained patterns in the madness of electronic splatter that Whitman created.  His set was a masterful display; his command of this mercurial process was stunning.  He conjured an insane poetry from the wires, a Pynchonian absurdity of barely comprehensible machine music.

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