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Ether Festival: Preview
The Quietus , October 5th, 2012 10:54

The Southbank Centre's Ether Festival begins tonight. We select some highlights...

Ether Festival, the Southbank Centre's annual festival focused around the intersection between music, arts and technology, opens today (Friday 5th October). A little like Meltdown - whose Antony Hegarty-curated line-up this year was among the best they've had for some time - it gathers together a number of unique or one-off collaborations and performances alongside a variety of other shows. There's no shortage of good stuff taking place over the next couple of weeks. You can read the full list and grab tickets here. But in advance of the festival's opening night, here are five that we're particularly intrigued by...

Brandt Brauer Frick Ensemble - Friday 5th October

Live techno played by an extremely sharp dressed German classical/jazz ensemble? Mein Gott!

Performing what's generally known as 'electronic' dance music with live, acoustic instruments can be tricky territory; a great deal of techno's appeal comes from its synthetic nature, its otherness, and the sense that it would be challenging to construct it from 'real world' materials. Nonetheless, Brandt Brauer Frick have been better than most at striking that balance, building intricately detailed, loopy dance tracks using samples sourced from orchestral instruments. Here they translate those pieces to the live arena, with the help of an ensemble of performers.

Tyondai Braxton & London Sinfonietta - Tuesday 9th October

Tyondai Braxton, well-coiffed former frontman of Battles, teams up with the London Sinfonietta to perform work by a number of avant-garde composers, including his own Central Market LP, which was released through Warp. A polyrhythmic frenzy of voices and looped instrumentation, it worked with similar ideas as Battles' earlier work but took them some distance away from the rock band format of his alma mater. They'll also be performing work by Ingram Marshall, Toru Takemitsu and Edgard Varese, among others.

Christian Marclay's Everyday - Saturday 13th October

Respected for his work that bridges the worlds of contemporary art and music, Christian Marclay is set to give the London premiere of his latest work, Everyday. Joined by musicans Steve Beresford, Mark Sanders, John Butcher and Alan Tomlinson, he will be piecing together a visual score using short video clips, which the musicians will then react to and improvise with in real time. The quote from Marclay accompanying the performance reads: "I have always enjoyed blurring the boundaries between music and art, sound and image, structure and chaos. The everyday embraces them all."

Mount Kimbie, Raime, Bass Clef, Ekoclef & Airhead - Saturday 13th October

A varied line-up of current exploratory electronic music, giving a fairly good overview of some of the UK's less dancefloor focused - but still broadly accessible - bedroom producers. Among them are Blackest Ever Black's Raime, playing a show a couple of weeks in advance of their debut album's release that will be heavy on the sub-bass and creeping dread; Bass Clef's incendiary cosmic house concoctions; Ekoplekz in collaboration with Bass Clef as Ekoclef, for some whacked-out tape noise. In addition, the now Warp-signed Mount Kimbie will be playing alongside Airhead, both of whom run a similar line in atmospheric post-dubstep.

Chunky Move's Mortal Engine - Friday 19th/Saturday 20th October

Acclaimed Australian contemporary dance company Chunky Move are renowned for their works that blur the lines between human and technology. Accompanied by electronic scores, laser lighting and sculptures, they're suggestive of fusions between the physical body and the digital world, with all the simultaneous beauty, bliss and discomfort that prospect brings to mind. Mortal Engine, performed for the first time in the UK, features a specially composed score by Ben Frost. Dancers' bodies are tracked by a sophisticated laser system designed by Robin Fox, bathing them in light that responds to their movements in real time.

We recently interviewed Robin Fox about his laser works and his work with Chunky Move, including a score he and Oren Ambarchi have composed for a more recent production, Connected. "All the dancers were sort of tracked by an infra-red tracking system, and so they're sort of linked to the sound and the light in various ways," he said of Mortal Engine. "The laser show features in that piece, and I designed with a German software engineer a way of tracking the dancers' bodies and locking onto them, wrapping them up in the laser light in a way. It was quite a beautiful piece to work on." Read the full interview here.

Ether runs at the Southbank Centre until 20th October

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