Spirit of Gravity have been putting on experimental electronica nights in Brighton for over ten years, but this is the first that we’d made it along to. The headliner caught our eye – Sarah Angliss, who is a third of Spacedog, playing a solo set
We missed opener Embla Quickbeam, and arrived just as Bela Emerson was starting her set. While the musical performance was solo cello, Bela was joined onstage by Carolina Diaz, who provided interpretive dance sporting a blazer worn back to front and long hair tied at the front rather than the back, designed to unsettle. Bela Emerson’s music was quite the opposite. What was initially experimental washes of sound, using loops and effect pedals to build up harmonics morphed over the course of the set into a more ambient mode. Harmonics became more sparse and a little discordant, more effect pedals were used to make the sound less like a cello, and the instrument was played in a non-standard manner to bring out new timbres. To create such a soundscape using just one instrument was truly a fantastic achievement.
Headliner Sarah Angliss was using the gig as an opportunity to showcase new material, and to rework some older songs. Some electronica acts play their sets hiding behind a laptop, but Sarah had a stage full of additional equipment. Most visually notable were her robots, made with 1930s puppets. To the left of the stage was a life sized disembodied puppet head called Hugo, which looked around during the set, and whose mouth opened and closed during spoken samples, and just in front of her keyboard was a smaller puppet called Wolfgang who was about 12″ high and drummed along with the beats. Aurally, the most impressive piece of kit was the huge theremin, set up so instead of varying the pitch and volume of a standard tone, it controlled samples instead. There was also a bell organ, played by via the laptop rather than traditional methods, obviously. The result was a much more interesting and engaging take on electronica, with additional elements brought in which enhance rather than distract from the performance.
Sarah’s next performance in Brighton will be an event called Horlicks and Armageddon, held in an old Cell under the town hall as part of the Fringe in May. There will also be a 7″ released on Ghost Box records, and there’s an album in the offing too.