Live Review: Matthew Bourne – Album launch @ Café Oto – Weds 15th Feb

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First to take to the stage are Icarus, and in the dimly lit ambience of Café Oto their two faces lit up from the glow of their laptop screens don’t provide a huge introduction to what we’re about to hear…. then the music starts…..

Bleeps and whirrs, hisses and booms; this eerie and hypnotic sound swells and grows into thunderous often tribal beats, infused with an almost random and eclectic selection of samples. They play one continuous half-hour set that is ever-more interesting and seems to throw you into your own world of electronic visions and strange swirling atmospheric emotion, especially when listening with closed eyes. The set ends with the sound breaking down into disjointed bleeps and crunches before finally fading away.

It seems this is music that could never be recreated the same again, and this is in fact exactly what Icarus intend, with new album ‘Fake Fish Distribution’ available only as a digital download, with 1000 possible variations of the album, different for each person who downloads it (follow the link for your own unique copy!)

By the time Matthew takes to the piano the room is full and bustling, with the front packed with clusters of chairs and standing room only behind. Matthew opens joking about being commonly mistaken for well known ballet choreographer of the same name. After putting the audience at complete ease with his instant warmth and friendliness his opening piece sees him using two ‘very expensive’ (as he complains afterwards) glass water bottles hitting, scratching and sliding across the strings inside the piano. This produces a wonderfully eerie sound especially coupled with his percussive slapping of the pianos outer body. He continues playing a mix of melodic, chord based songs interspersed with more experimental uses of the piano; plucking, pounding and slapping in a variety of ways.

His set, he tells us, although this is his album launch, is almost wholly improvised, but there are clear moments from the album; like the heart-warming ‘Infinitude’: A slow and delicate piece, with the rich ringing-out chords in this intimate room making you take stock of what you are listening to; the confident spaces in the music meaning the atmosphere and sounds of the room become part of the track very effectively. In his now very evident chatty and joking manner he then breaks down the track to being merely ‘two chords I kinda liked’ that he had stumbled upon at a disastrous recording session in Belgium last year.
Again recognisable from ‘Montauk Variations’, the totally contrasting ‘Étude Psychotique’ follows, this blindingly fast piece made up from frenetic embellishments and runs with deep thunderous crashes of the low keys is full energy and electricity while only just over a minute long.

It’s a true pleasure to watch such a talented and capable musician, but also one who shows us much of who Matthew Bourne himself is; a very genuine, honest and humorous man. ‘Montauk Variations’ is his debut album as a solo artist, having released work as long ago as 2003 as part of The Electric Dr M, and collaborating with a great deal of musicians since then. With a six-week residency in Xiamen, China starting next month we look forward greatly to see where the coming months take him!

All photos courtesy of Judit Rodríguez

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