Various Venues, London
12 - 21 March
Technology has aided in shivving the rigid red tape of convention lassoed around live performances. This is all the more generative for electronic music. If the sounds that fall upon our ears are altogether alien, it is technology’s job to help us visualise in the mind’s eye what we hear. And as the synthesis of synth and sight propel themselves into the future, so too do the performances.
Convergence is fast becoming a polestar of this particular discourse. Only in its second year of existence, it lacks the imperfections of sophomoric festivals. Curated by Glenn Max, previous organiser of the Meltdown and Ether festivals, this year’s events have exceeded its want to deploy music with visual art. It has dominated the good bulk of March showcasing artists and session workshops in purposely diametric locations around London. Fettered by the broken glass and vomit of Shoreditch, Village Underground played host to the majority of Convergence’s 17 events. Hackney’s perfectly dilapidated St John’s Church, the railway arched amenities of Old Street’s Kachette, Royal Festival Hall’s decadent segging, Amnesty International’s New Inn Yard headquarters, and the Troxy all opened their doors.
Opening night is ‘fire and brimstone’ techno treasure Clark supported by Rival Consoles and Vessels. Incongruous edges and furrows evolve behind Ryan Lee West, aka Rival Console’s hardware. There’s a humanistic sensibility to his setup; the analogue sounds are undeniably lifelike. He hurriedly manoeuvres around wires and knobs as the dim of his laptop shades the contours of his deeply concentrated face. An applaudable introduction met with swelling warmth.
Clark’s Warp released self-titled is a blueprint in electronic composition. It smoothly coalesces straightforward techno with the textured pitter patter of ambience. Tonight, Clark toys with this dualism coupled with an onstage confidence almost unparalleled by any other performer throughout Convergence. He disregards 4/4 for something all the more schismatic; a theme paramount to the following night’s roster of Inga Copeland, Untold and Andy Stott.
Internet memes spliced with footage of Lena Dunham at awards ceremonies are displayed as Copeland spiels over fractured electronics. Her delivery has the detachment of an air-flight attendant. Her static disregard is both disorientating and arresting. It’s a comment on the ritualistic dumbfuckery of club music. She shames her crowd, stuck in an awkward hypnosis. This is a skeletal wakeup call – shaking us to think. The reception is unnecessarily cold; a reactive state sustained for both Untold and Andy Stott. Their ‘build and build’ experimentalism is expertly crafted; their Friday night audience expertly apathetic.
Gazelle Twin and Tricky perform at St Johns at Hackney Church: the former being a demagogue of electronic leftism, the latter being a household name in the annals of dance history. The former is petrifying. She screams over amped thuds as strobe lights harass her masked face. The latter discards everything, rarely interacting with his crowd. He casually points at his musicians like a conductor, occasionally flaying his arms to increase either tempo or volume. A headline slot usurped by the radicalism of the support.
And so the festival continues in this vein. Andrew Weatherall performs in Village Underground’s newly opened ‘Boom Room’ in collaboration with Noise of Art. The night is an aural spectacle. Contextual sampler Matthew Herbert records his audience shouting, which he assures will be utilised in a future performance. Elephants shrouded in jewellery constantine over pink and green triangles as Shivani Ahlowalia, aka Alo Wala delivers a bass beaten revision of traditional indian rhythms. Batida’s lesson in Angolan ancestry meshed with contemporary dance music is an astonishing feat. Days start to form one protracted performance, one after the other after the other, until Pantha du Prince, Zomby, Shackleton and Darkstar assemble for the festival’s finale at the Troxy. By this point, the visual unorthodoxy mixed with the psychedelics of Pantha du Prince’s soundscapes, Darkstar’s appropriated dub-tech and Shackleton’s sub-bass sampling forms a pyramid of ocular discord.
The Convergence organisers have eclipsed their ambitious commissions. They have amassed a global operation into a set of London venues that have altered the trajectory of electronic music and what role technology will play in the future. That is until next year, when they do it all again.
Photography by: Antonio Pagano + Abi Dainton