There’s already a decent number of people in when I arrive, and I’m unfashionably on time. There’s something of a buzz in the air and people are chatting and making the most of the decent hand-pulled ales on the temporary bar that’s been installed in this brick-walled room beneath an art studio and gallery. As a backdrop, celebrated producer and superstar DJ BEAUMONT HANNANT’s choices of cuts create a pleasant ambience.
It’s around 9pm when Tim Wright and his collaborator Theo Burt take up their stations behind their laptops stage right and the venue is plunged into darkness for their BASTARD STRUCTURES show. It’s not ambient, and nor is it entirely pleasant, and that’s a good thing. Put simply, this is multimedia art at its most absolute: the visuals drive the music, with the shifting shapes actually triggering the sounds, and it’s neatly arranged to alternate between pieces by each artist, interspersed with truly collaborative crossover pieces. Wright’s works are stark and brutal, with harsh strobe effects and black and white images scorching the retinas in the most abrasive, unforgiving fashion. Burt’s pieces contrasts well, being lighter, easier on both eye and ear and more clearly designed for amusement, and some of the pieces bring the two styles together to dizzying effect. A chap I know later remarked that he enjoyed ‘the fun ones’. Needless to say, I preferred the ones that inflicted pain on my senses and fucked with my head.
Time for another pint – Yankee this time – as I’m working my way down the bar and around the people I’m familiar with, and then VIEWER are up. The projections – more brain-bending optical shapes that hypnotise in no time and completely suck you in – provide the perfect backdrop to the duo’s sassy, savvy brand of pulsating techno indie pop.
When I say that Viewer are cynical, I don’t mean calculated or contrived: the lyrics, penned by AB, to songs such as ‘Dumb it Down’, ‘White Noise’ and ‘Sunrise’ are sneering swipes at mainstream culture, at society, at conformity, at, well, take your pick. Johnson’s vocal style – which falls between Mark E. Smith, and, as another reviewer has suggested, Lou Reed – seems as much at odds with the music as his image and lyrics, and it’s precisely because of these contradictions that Viewer are such an interesting proposition. AB is also a great front man who looks entirely at home on stage – again, in complete contrast to Wright, who lurks in the shadows, hunched over his laptop and remains seated. He knows exactly what he’s doing, of course, namely controlling the thumping beats and solid basslines that provide the foil for Johnson’s quirky delivery and showmanship.
All the while the geometric patterns roll endlessly, searing their shapes into the retinas of the onlookers. It’s a groove alright, and by the time they closed the set with a reprise of ‘Suicide Girl’, my senses were tripping in overdrive. Yes, Viewer really are ones to watch.