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Cozmik Onion Express 2.91414 / Sculpture / Yuki Tsujii (live at New River Studios)

16 September 2015

Out on the margins of London’s more fashionable postcodes, things are brewing and ticking over quietly to themselves once again. One such night of music and more takes place in the calmer reaches of Manor House in the unhurried Bohemian environs of New River Studios’ performance space, filled for the evening with Reuben Sutherland‘s engrossing video projections. As the audience begins to trickle in, Reuben blends and stirs his various liquids into a suitably cloudlike backdrop, providing suitable echo to the deluge of autumnal rain which passed through the city earlier in the day, soaking and saturating everything in its path.

Yuki Tsuji at New River Studios

Yuki Tsujii opens his solo performance with meandering guitar as recursive as the bends of the swollen New River which flows through the warehouse district where the studios have their home. He sings softly in Japanese, leaning into the music as he gently coaxes the guitar into life, his reflective and open strings eventually riding on far softer ripples of feedback than when he plays in Bo Ningen. Bare and bright, Yuki’s playing goes where it will, following a pleasantly roundabout route and taking in the sights of inner space to marry nicely with the loops and whorls of colourful swirling clusters staining the wall behind him.

Sculpture at New River Studios

Taking on the roles of DJ as well as VJ for the evening, Sculpture also play the interval music before their set proper begins while several of the audience wander off in search of refreshment from the studio café (complete with suitably aloof ginger and white cat, who surveys proceedings with a calmly proprietorial air, save for the occasional dash out of the doors to conduct a perimeter check for rodent intruders). Dan Hayhurst lets a rustle of shimmering self-reflexive delay wash and course to the kaleidoscope spin of their own Rotary Signal Emitter picture disc projected from Reuben’s turntable. Hayhurst mixes and mashes in tape fragment after electronic glitch, the totality flowing through the visuals in a spellbinding whole that flicks from magic lantern cycling to oil-slick psychedelia in a beguiling flutter and flow of image and sound.

It’s easy to forget just how fascinating a process Sculpture playing live is usually to watch as it is to hear, rhythms and loops accreting into a stuttery, gloriously chaotic mess of hugely enjoyable proportions while bones and flowers, swirls and eddies merge. Their performance is a synaesthetic groove that moves as much as it glitches and emerges from happenstance, all under the deft and concentrated hands of the dynamised duo absorbed intently in selecting and serving up the possibilities offered by their respective devices.

Sculpture at New River Studios

It’s an organic process that meshes together perfectly tonight — though never slickly — the audio and visual components unique every time, a stochastic flow guided and controlled by expert space cadets at their wibbly controls, dubbed up in waves of echo FX and wholly non-computer generated imagery. Reuben deals stacks of op-art cards and other paraphernalia onto the turntable platen to mind-bending effect, much as Dan selects any given dangling loop of magnetic tape from the rack at the side of his gear to wind into into his reel-to-reel player to mix in with FX, synths and sequencers.

The whole experience would be sufficiently bedazzling to witness performed even without seeing a panoply of trompe l’oeil conjured right in front of those very same deceived eyes like a carnival sideshow on heavy doses of hallucinogens; and even when their set is finished the lightshow continues, setting the stage for the final act of the night.

Cozmik Onion Express at New River Studios

On this occasion, Cozmik Onion Express 2.91414 is drummer Jonas Duus and main onion-man Taishi Nagasaka (currently bassist for Fat White Family and like Dan, a veteran of London’s spaced-out Noughties supergroup They Came From The Stars, I Saw Them). Together they explode into a tangled web of drumkit colliding with a myriad of electronic devices under an alphabet soup of Reuben’s especially frenetic devising. Jonas hits the harsh hats hard while Taishi gives the grinding snarls and whirls at his fingertips — generated by triggered analogue synths, cheap toys and his processed voice — a comprehensive workout, drums clattering into the visceral noise oblivion as the cycling psychedelic fruit salad lightshow rotates like the Merry Pranksters‘ LSD-laced punchbowl over the studio walls.

Cozmik Onion Express at New River Studios

Taishi has his vocal effects prepared and isn’t afraid to use them to the full, and from time to time his jagged rushes of shuddering noise are offset pleasantly by the mixed wafts of citrus and other inky scents which emanate from the general direction of the source of the increasingly spasmodic array of visuals. At one point it sounds like Taishi is asking “Can we kill the lights?”, but he runs it through so many filters and pitch shifts that if that’s what he wants it might as well be open to other more garbled interpretations.

Cozmik Onion Express conclude their set with stop-start frissons of (perhaps surprisingly, perhaps not) structured noise intersecting with hearty percussion in an finale of energetic proportions. By this point they’re letting rip like there really is no tomorrow and that they’ve decided that they’d better get some blasting, bruising noise out of their collective system before the end days — or the studio curfew — finally kicks in.

-Richard Fontenoy-

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