by Rachel Beaumont

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Box of Delights: Ruins in Reverse at the LCMF

Ruins in Reverse
London Contemporary Music Festival
Ambika P3
Unreserved, £15
5 December 2017
LCMF page

Complete programme:
John Oswald Plexure (1993)
Anton Lukoszevieze Dirty Angels (2013)
Pierluigi Billone Mani.DeLeonardis (2004)
Jack Sheen Slow motion romantics vol.II (2017) (world premiere)
Sarah Hughes I Stay Joined (2017) (world premiere)
Galina Ustvolskaya Sonata No. 6 (1988)
Elisabeth S. Clark Book Concerto in One Act (2008)
Yasunao Tone AI Deviation V1 #5, AI Deviation V2 #3 (2017) (UK premiere)

Every contemporary music concert is likely to be a mixed bag but this one made for exciting rummaging, yielding among a handful of middling pebbles two golden oldies, two new jewels and one blood-thirsty rodent ready to rip your face off.

Billone’s Mani.DeLeonardis was the first perpetually interesting piece on the programme, its bespoke percussion instrument constructed of car springs and cooking bowls played with aplomb by Simon Limbrick. The piece strikes me as a celebration of the percussive power of the human body in general and of the percussionist in particular, uniting inquisitive investigations of the sound capacities of objects and body under the varied application of the hand, within a satisfyingly complex rhythmic structure. I wondered towards the end if it was slightly too long.

Ustvolskaya’s Sonata No.6 is an extremely exciting assault on the piano, a ruthless exploitation of the instrument’s smugly polyphonic capacities. Pianist Philip Thomas was rather less ruthless than I thought he should have been, with a tendency to rush that contradicts the piece’s mechanized brutality, but he was at least sufficiently and delightfully violent.

I already thought there were lots of reasons to feel cheerful about British contemporary music, and this concert gave me two further causes in the shape of premieres by Jack Sheen and Sarah Hughes, neither of whose music I’ve heard before but who each enchanted me. They both wrote for large ensemble and there were certain other similarities between the two that make me wonder at their being juxtaposed in the programme; but nevertheless each built a distinctive, coherent and evolving soundworld that kept me engrossed throughout and eager for more at the end.

So it’s a good thing that the monster was lurking at the bottom of the bag, only making his unwelcome presence known when there was nothing more to come and it was safe to run away. The diminutive, gentle-seeming appearance of Yasunao Tone belies his music, which consists of the white noise generated by corrupted MP3s played at decibel levels that made me concerned for my survival. The experience of being in a sound so loud and of sensing (with anxious acuity) the effect it has on the body made the first few minutes compelling, in something like a Cosmic Pules kind of way. But by the fourth minute I was feeling oppressed, depressed and compressed, and that only got worse. I made it to the end of AI Deviation V1 #5 but couldn’t bear the indistiguishable AI Deviation V2 #3 and still suspect the unassuming Tone of making a piece that doesn’t end until everyone has left.

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