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Chris Cunningham @ Opera House 22nd April 2010

Laura Marsden wouldn't have missed last week's show for anything

Published on April 26th 2010.


Chris Cunningham @ Opera House 22nd April 2010

On Thursday OH Productions, Now Wave and the Warehouse Project jointly presented one of only three UK shows by the video director Chris Cunningham.

Guitars begin to rip up the audio, a girl who looks a bit like Fee from The Whip on serious amounts of class As wearing a slapperish dress starts to shake her head off, lift her skirt up and show us, what’s that? A load of squids?

Taking place at the Opera House, this special show saw Cunningham combine his already well-known videos with new ones as well as some heavvvvvy remixes and his own music.

LoneLady (WARP) was supposed to open but cancelled, instead, Fuck Buttons, in town for a gig at the Academy, played a DJ set.

They gave us some lovely glitchy 8-bit dreamy computer music which, albeit a bit quiet, was good. It sounded like a pretty doom where pixellated boys were getting blitzed under bit crushers while girls blew kisses. Annoyingly, the auditorium lights weren’t dimmed until about three quarters of the way through their set which marred the atmosphere.

Next up was BEAK> a band featuring Geoff Barrow (Portishead), Billy Fuller (Fuzz Against Junk) and Matt Williams (Team Brick). The set began with a drone and a motorik beat; that relentless 4/4 time sound associated with ‘krautrock’ and supposedly aping the forward flowing mechanism of a motor, on a motorway, perhaps.

Very warm and fuzzy flowing synths provided the drone which were sort of held together by a strict bass. Barrow and Fuller provided some haunted yelps which contributed to the dissonance and sense of foreboding. The drums were way too quiet though which was unfortunate and nobody seemed to be paying attention at all.

Most of the audience were only interested in Cunningham which, when his set began, seemed justified.

The SOUND! Words like heavy, mega and epic don’t really do it justice. There were SLABS of bass which hit you like a truck and scary sounds like sickles cutting through brains. Visually, it was instantly arresting and just, well beautiful in a fucked up way.

There were three massive screens on stage, the centre one often projecting the ‘main’ image, the other two flanking it showed other, related, cuts. Sometimes all three images were the same, but mostly not.

There was also an enormous lurid green laser which swept across the Opera House breaking open to project images of the world and clouds. Occasionally, it just zapped randomly.

The opening segment of the show featured a naked couple, in darkness, in water, just floating…sort of spooning…like foetuses entwined. The lighting was like a rich oil painting, all ochre and burnt sienna. The woman’s hair formed mermaid tendrils and the couple’s bodies were perfect. A close up of the man’s penis caused a few sniggers and god knows what was shouted as he pulled back his foreskin. But it was all floaty and dreamy, twinkly and sort of, tender (the general vibe, not the penis).

As the music slammed however, the couple’s embrace turned into a FULL-ON choreographed fist-fight. They POUNDED each other with a brutality which I seem incapable of describing without uninhibited use of CAPS-LOCK. They went for each other, properly, in a way that was somehow exciting and shocking yet also erotic….no, not in a ‘ooh, this is turning me on way’ but in a deeper, more fundamental way. As if it depicted love and how, when you love someone you tear strips off each other and batter each other, but underneath it there is something animal. Something tender.

Almost as soon as I had this thought, I heard the unmistakable pulse and throb of that Moroder synth and it can’t be can it? Yes it is! A weirded out bad man version of Donna Summer’s I Feel Love fused with big searing juddery bass and speedy beats.

Guitars begin to rip up the audio, a girl who looks a bit like Fee from The Whip on serious amounts of class As wearing a slapperish dress starts to shake her head off, lift her skirt up and show us, what’s that? A load of squids?

The whole thing was a delight, aurally and visually stunning and breath-taking. Everyone was captivated from start to finish and the 75 minute show felt like about 10. It also featured reworks of Cunningham’s famous ‘Windowlicker’ (Aphex Twin) video and Rubber Johnny (which is hideously brilliant and worth a look at on youtube right now, click here.

A remix of Gil Scott Heron’s ‘New York is Killing Me’ came at the end of the show which was powerful and poignant.

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AgricolaApril 26th 2010.

That is one weird Youtube click

AnonymousApril 27th 2010.

This is quite the hardest and strangest article I have ever read on ManCon. I don't think I'm stupid (i know I'm not) but I don't understand a word of this. What is the writer talking about?

AnonymousApril 27th 2010.

Trying clicking on the Youtube link and then you'll see the writing matches the 'music/art'.

AnonymousMay 3rd 2010.

I can't believe you were at the same gig. It was the biggest pile of rubbish I've experienced for a long time. Loads of people walked out. It was his videos rehashed and endless images looped over and over with music that gave me a headache. I felt robbed of my evening, my money and my sanity. Chris Cunningham has done some amazing music videos but this evening was self indulgent wank.

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