"Ether Festival showcases music at its most disparate"Review Rating: Reviewed by Leila
Do you believe electronic music is for dancing, and should therefore remain within the confines of a nightclub? Or do the endless bleeps beloved of bedroom experimentalists deserve to be studied at length by audiences at the Royal Festival Hall?
For 10 years the Southbank’s Ether Festival has presented a programme that mixes groundbreaking music both old and new with visual arts, film, and anything one could class as avant-garde, such as sound-manipulating ‘jamshops’ and pairing Radiohead’s Thom Yorke with the London Synfonietta.
The term ‘sound architect’ gets bandied around a lot for the duration of this annual event as some of the acts are not musicians in the conventional sense; this year saw attendees mesmerised as Tim Exile looped an array of sounds submitted to him by the general public via a Soundcloud dropbox. Sceptics delighted at its flippancy when two children appeared on stage to bang a few keys resulting in music that sounded even better than Exile’s.
Thankfully the thought-provoking side of the genre was also shown with an ambient showcase from techno and house label Kompakt and Micachu’s ‘Chopped and Screwed’ blend of classical and digital sounds. If that didn’t appeal to the more traditionalist fans there were other activities to choose from, such as the acclaimed film ‘The Passion of Joan of Arc’ with an updated score by Portishead’s Adrian Utley and Goldfrapp’s Will Gregory, Stravinsky’s ‘The Rite of Spring’ performed by one dancer and accompanied by 3D visuals, influential post punk band Killing Joke at the Royal Festival Hall and of course, Steve Reich, this time with the glockenspiel, percussion and marimba piece ‘Drumming’.
Technology has revolutionised how musicians operate and listeners enjoy music, making it harder for artists to innovate, but Ether’s mission is to exhibit its most disparate melodic possibilities - expect more wonderfully incongruous collaborations next year (grime rapper Tinie Tempah performing alongside the Royal Ballet perhaps?)
Leila reviewed Southbank Centre on Wed 04 May 2011