Photography: Rob Godfrey

Immix Ensemble / Jane Weaver / Sam Wiehl

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  • Dialect
  • Andy Votel
Lutyen's Crypt 9/11/17

All stars rise in the east. In ancient times, soldiers of the Roman army were initiated into the cult of Mithraism by dining together, ritually, in secret grottoes. A bringer of light, Mithra’s birth was celebrated in midwinter. There are obvious parallels with another subterranean sect from the Middle East, one that erected cathedrals around the world with crypts below, filled with initiates. In present-day Liverpool, those who know, know, and they have climbed down into the hard sandstone of Brownlow Hill to hear IMMIX ENSEMBLE and JANE WEAVER in a twentieth-century cave.

It was a stroke of genius to make all screws and their threads twist likewise. This succession of tones, DIALECT’s first commission as Immix’s composer-in-residence for 2017-18, is perfectly fitted to the snug rifling of the ear canal. It bores in and holds fast. Interplay between laptop and ‘traditional’ instruments is a recurring idea, trading throbbing rhythmic patterns. The beat eventually softens, but doesn’t let up on its muscular insistence à la St. Vitus’ on the currents of the bloodstream. Late on and far off, a lofty violin note falls in a desperately slow glissando; it’s like seeing Lucifer himself expelled from heaven.

The accompanying visuals consist of whole screens of block colour – it’s interesting to see how much light a monitor gives off when it isn’t showing anything except a very unblack black – and their flashing produces a brilliant strobing effect on our surroundings. The players are neither hidden nor on show, perceptible only by the glow of their music stands, so sending your eyes a-wandering up pillars and round domes is to be expected. It’s as if the bricks themselves are lighting up in turn.

The main event tonight is a three-way collaboration: Jane Weaver presenting her latest album, reworked with Immix as Kosmologie Ancienne, with visuals by artist SAM WIEHL. The latter are at their best when simplest: flanking the players with close-ups of a hard, dull orange sun as seen through the visor of a welder’s mask while a hyperprism busies itself centre-screen behind the action. Nebulae, and the stars graduating from them, fit around the celestial Slow Motion and The Architect, with Weaver’s lyrics never quite in the foreground, but still intelligible. The ear automatically finds a dialogue between the Modern Kosmology songs and Dialect’s piece from the first half (each work was produced independently, sound unheard). It’s interesting to compare, for example, another violin glissando (upwards this time), or the contrary motion that does with scales what the earlier piece did with rhythm. It’s an intense set which ends with the brightest-burning fire, I Wish, prefaced by the best cello playing I’ve ever heard from Abel Selaocoe.

A lot of this music is how Olivier Messiaen’s Interstellar Call (from his suite From The Canyons To The Stars) might have sounded if it had been written for clarinet, not horn. Weaver’s voice is gentle and flutey, a complementary tone colour against the fricative sounds of Immix’s brass, reeds, and bowed strings. She’s also playing guitar, gently strumming, bypassing all the usual problems incurred by orchestral instruments in the company of electric guitars. Credit to Immix leader Dan Thorne. This gig doesn’t fit into any of the neat compartments of classical, jazz, or pop music. As he explains, “We like interesting, creative statements, however they’re made.”

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