KleinTate Liverpool 29/1/17
Blue. The colour has the power to evoke serenity, coolness and calm, while in some it renders a more sombre, melancholic emotion. Yves Klein, in collaboration with a French chemist, was able to encapsulate the vividness of the colour, patenting his own pigment of blue (International Klein Blue). He utilised it to pursue an immateriality of absolute freedom and infinite space, encompassing his entire outlook; combining the earth and sky, a vehicle for which his emotions can be illustrated, free from external impurities. In Britain, we have to endure the annual affliction of the January Blues; a far less poetic allegory. Born from an amalgamation of the consequential come-down following an acute period of over-indulgence and excess spending, and the asphyxiating claustrophobia resulting from wearing too many layers and being in doors all the time.
So, in toast of yet another January gone by with our mental sanity still intact, and in response to Tate Liverpool’s current Yves Klein exhibition, Tate provide us with a northern live debut for the non-genetically related south London musician, KLEIN.
Attending a gig at a modern art museum, on the surface sounds like an incredible social achievement, although expectations of a champagne reception and brushing shoulders with attractive, aloof artists are quickly dissolved, as I’m ushered towards a silent, pitch black room on the top floor. People sit courteously, cross-legged, laden in winter clothes and civilly sipping wine, their silhouettes gently illuminated by the blue light from Klein’s laptop screen. Video loops of angry looking landscapes then fire up, jumping across the visual display on the wall behind her. A backdrop of dark skies, punctuated by ominous clouds and lightning, sets the tone of the start of the gig, as Klein’s own brand of experimental electronic music focuses on the disconcerting, hypnotic and, at times, disturbing, to open her set.
She wields her voice as another thick layer against the bricolage of the cacophony of her sound. For long periods it’s doused in distortion, pitched low, rough and distant. When it comes to the surface it’s mesmerising, primal, evangelic, and uplifting as she sails close to gospel singer Kim Burrell. Glimpses of danceable rhythms leap from the swirl of chaos, bodies move in time, but are quickly returned to static as these Flying Lotus-like beats are swiftly withdrawn.
The set draws on and people start to filter out, her music is certainly engaging and deeply layered, a fine experimental piece of art. However, the pockets of the crowd that take their leave may have treated this as an art exhibition rather than a live show, moving on as their attentions pique.
For the ones who have stayed, they witness Klein’s set occupy vast open spaces, unshackled from tight rhythmic sequences; a mellow, reverb-infused spectral duvet cloaks the room, whilst a bright, blue sky now occupies the screen.
Call it tenuous, but it’s in this exploration of space where Klein mirrors the artist of the same name; her tactile use of time signatures, the use of colour, mood and volume provoke a kaleidoscope of emotions, and although her lyrics are often incomprehensible, and the sound for large parts is muffled, themes of love, religion, family and pain are evoked. Klein is a cauldron of potential.