Live: 290516|MS[k]|TRw (Matthew Sergeant/Emma Lloyd + Tom Rose), The Yard Theatre & Club, London, 29/05/2016


I imagine a gigantic pane of glass. I’m on one side, Wisty is on the other. Tom Rose’s new installation is playing over a hardy-looking set of nightclub speakers (the sort designed to stay intact during gigantic throbs of techno), spilling into a space occupied by a bar and some socially-centric seating, with sufficient room for a dancefloor in between them. The sound arrives in trickles and taps; tiny digital stammers and pitch-shifted passages; scissors rapped and rolled anxiously upon marble tops; synthesisers tracing the vague, near-melodic circumference of rave-ready loops. At points, there’s the cold crackle of a fracturing surface, as though a fuller, more expansive sound is trying to push through the sheet of imposed quiet. I hear the strands and flecks of material that manage to squeeze themselves through the gaps, as speakers and space gape open in beckoning of higher volume levels and deeper, more visceral frequencies. Either side of me on the bench, there’s a hat and a tuft of dead plantlife. Signifiers, perhaps, of E.L. Wisty’s recent departure? The physical relics of the fading memory of a past encounter? Just as sound drips through the cracked screen of what Rose chooses not to express, the outline of E.L. Wisty exists in traces of implication. Wisty is here, or was here, or will be here shortly.

I move from the bar to the theatre space. Unlike the tension of Wisty, which puts the listener into a state of conflict about the appropriate audience etiquette, Matthew Sergeant’s [kiss] explicitly demands my obedient stillness and silence. Despite best efforts, I fail miserably to comply. I tip-toe my pen across my notebook in an effort to soften the sound of the nib against the paper, and physically wince as I flip over to the next page. Meanwhile, the dance music of a nearby bar comes thumping through the venue walls. Under a spotlight, the violin of Emma Lloyd whispers gently. Faint semblances of pitch emerge from beneath the coarse friction of twine bow against the string, and I hear every protrusive hair scraping and bumping as it passes over the instrument. Such a low volume means that Lloyd’s performance barely juts above the ambient noise of the space (largely provided by the muffled dance music of a nearby club spilling through the venue wall), and thus it is the spotlight that ultimately directs my listening focus toward the centre, drawing me away from the shuffles of coats, furniture creaks and the noise leaking in from outside, asserting a focal point for my eyes and requesting that my ears follow suit. After a few minutes, I’m zoning in on Lloyd exclusively as she allows her body to sway along with the bow, peeling her hand away from the neck and delicately clasping it again, enacting miniscule gradients in the application and relief of bow pressure. Sometimes her movements become slightly more erratic; the bow jumps in little frictional gasps, like a primal reaction to a tiny shock. I’m aware that there’s allegedly a passage of contrary character embedded within this 4/5-hour piece – presumably a stretch of performance aggression and high volume. Neither Lloyd’s demeanour nor Sergeant’s score give any indication as to when this may be, and the air is thick with a sense of volatility and imminent change. One sudden movement could trigger the shift. Equally, I’m aware that this passage could have happened before I arrived, or will happen after I leave. With both Wisty and [kiss], I find myself scrutinising the potential within what I don’t hear with the same fervency that I examine my present-tense. I’d be curious to read the review written by my absent self.

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