Out of the numerous concert venues I have been to in London since I moved here a little over a year and a half ago The Church of St John at Hackney has pretty quickly established itself as my favourite of the lot. The place’s acoustics and amazing reverb coupled with the impeccable choice of artists to perform there has made every performance I’ve attended there an absolute joy (the fact that my first show there was seeing Stars of the Lid and it being a ten minute walk from my place certainly didn’t hurt its chances either). This was my third time St John’s and with a line up of Paul Jebanasam, Dalhous and the ever transcendent Wolfgang Voigt it would have taken an extremely long list of misfortunes for the evening not to end spectacularly. Luckily, no such thing happened and the night was equal to any I have attended there. And better than most that I’ve attended elsewhere.
First to perform was Paul Jebanasam who, for those with short memories,
had released one of 2011’s best albums, Music for the Church of St John the Baptist. Now the thing that has separated ambient artists in live performances in my book has always been how well the artist uses the space. Do they push their faders up and allow the room to respond, a wise choice in this case, or do they back off, do they explore the room’s architecture or keep everything dead centre. Of course, in Jebanasam’s case, having recorded a whole album in similar surroundings, he executed it perfectly. Expertly holding the audience’s attention and making everyone sit on the edge of their seats through alternating ambience and sharp electronic stabs, at one point transitioning to beautifully serene passages built to be gradually destroyed by jagged noise; never predictable, always captivating. The set was an absolute triumph and seemed to fly by.
Bristol based duet Dalhous followed and as a person who hasn’t listened to their music before, it was a pleasant surprise. Reminiscent of Warp giants Aphex Twin, early Autechre and mostly Boards of Canada, their set had intensity and contemplation blended magnificently from start to finish. Combining soundscapes that are allowed to repeat and evolve with time and introducing some very intricately crafted glitched beats to contrast the sprawling beauty of their pads and field recordings. Transitions between songs could’ve been better worked out but even so that hardly proved to be a hindrance to the overall experience.
Then it was time for the man himself, Wolfgang Voigt performing his newest series of releases, the unpronounceable Rückverzauberung. This, to put it simply, was a masterclass in ambient music. The sounds, beautiful; the transitions; perfect; the experience, unforgettable. There is a reason some artists’ careers last for decades and never seem to falter while others run out of ideas in a matter of years and that’s their ability to always reinvent themselves, push themselves further and always have something awe inspiring to present their audiences and Voigt has all that in abundance. As a person who thought Gas‘ Pop could never be topped by pretty much anyone, Voigt himself took up the challenge and provided an eight part series that built upon the sound of his moniker and pushed it to new, weirder, sometimes more exciting areas. The sound emanating from his quite simple set up filled up the church completely, in a room lit only by a few candles, his music shone through and brought everything to life. I can generally tell when an artist has fully succeeded by the number of people chatting during the performance (the reason why these people attend concerts at all is beyond me) and during his performance, there wasn’t a whisper to be heard. Everyone and everything became one with the music, moving with its ups and downs, delighting in it’s near perfection culminating in the fantastic ending that is “Rückverzauberung 6.1″. I went to this concert expecting something amazing, I got much more than that, an enthralling evening from start to finish. (Mohammed Ashraf)