It is, I think, the first really nice night of Spring. Supple breezes blew warm and gently through a bare Spitalfields Market, pushing me into the Spitz with no hurry. I’m here to see the Black Dice, a New York ensemble I’m only dimly aware of; they had played at this ‘not music’ music festival last year or the year before in my home state of Ontario somewhere, which suggested that their music is more of a Performance. Art. than vague noises and spliced sound bites. The idea of experiential music intrigues me, and so I’m both excited and sceptical of the night that awaits. The Spitz is always darkened and cosy, their tables dotting the edges and fat cathedral candles sitting on each allow the few who have already arrived to bask in obscured comfort.

There are two supports to get through first, Fursaxa and Bardo Pond, neither of which I know outside their being ‘related’ via the long-term relationship of Bardo Pond Mike, and Fursaxa’s Tara. To be perfectly honest, listening to them back-to-back, I can’t help but wonder how two so seemingly opposed people have ever managed to get it on, let alone stick it together.

Bardo Pond are awful. And by ‘awful’ I'm refering to the teeth grinding, bone clenching, frequent wincing variety. There are great many people who will read this and shun my very existence, and I’m truly hoping for their sake that it’s just this performance that went so wrong. However, hold onto your voodoo dolls, I’m sticking to it. The mainstay of their show is simply a dirty wet blanket noise that goes nowhere and does nothing. I actually start reading my book half way through because of the need to escape into the relative sanity and calm of the TRIFFIDS. This is something I have NEVER done before, and while slightly embarrassed about it, it’s that or leave entirely. Their one near-saving grace is the chick-lead whose voice is lovely, and who played a beautiful bit of flute. But it just got completely suffocated by distortion and insoluble static.

By contrast opening support Fursaxa is excellent; a one woman show whose mellow haunting voice trails and winds with such delicate power, the room falls silently under her spell within the first echo. She performs, eyes closed and aware. Long woven notes, like the heavy plait that hangs down her back, sway and curl in an endless loop of falling and reeling resonance. She leaves the stage letting the sound spill from it, and returns draped in a cloak, carrying what looks like a small didgeridoo. A rounded feral prayer call, an icy and evocative moan. It verges on a religious encounter, this peculiar distance between her and her music, yet an intangible inseparability, that detaches them the art and artist from us the audience with vast, almost tundra-like expanse. To hear someone laugh over the silent din after she finishes seems almost alien, but not half as strange as her announcement of merch being available over by the door.

Under the weight of this heady disorientation, the wait for the Black Dice seems endless. People mill about restlessly around the small pockets of feet and bags that station themselves on the floor. Two drums are set up, a mixer appears, a car door slams, a glass breaks, somewhere a bird chirps and chatters and all is lost in static.

I have an urge to sit on one of the speakers so I can feel how it sounds rather than simply hear it; and more, I wish I had thought to bring something to bootleg it. Such sonic tonnage requires listening to each track several times to fully appreciate its majesty; a small token of melody tying together the dense turbine-esque synchronicity could easily go unnoted. By the time the drums crack into life, they have turned the show into an internal event in which each member of the audience is lost within their own experience. The ‘music’ of the Black Dice is at once spontaneously individual, and strangely conversant between it’s three performers. Cut reverberation, and spliced reams of seemingly disconnected, normally and intuitively opposed, sound bursts are fused together to create a concentrated moment that passes complete before you realise it was there.

As I slump back towards Liverpool St. to catch my night bus home, voices ring out above the haze, but one in particular. A tall skinny boy, eyes dancing and grin so broad his face might break gasps to his knowing partner, "I had no idea what to expect, but. That was Awesome!"

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Commenting On: Spitz, London, 31/3/2004 - Black Dice

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