Ekoclef At FAG Studios Review

he unassuming entrance to FAG studios just off Kings Square was surrounded by a dedicated crew of heavy coat wearers, smoking and sipping beers, lit by the comforting yellow glow emanating from the doorway. After a walk down the stone-flagged tunnel to the performance space, the cold outside was quickly forgotten as you stepped into the intimate and psychedelically-lit performance space. Right on time, the front door was closed, lights dimmed and the 30-strong audience fell silent almost immediately. ŒPipe Dreams¹ started the night's proceedings off with a performance filled with long drone passages and filtered string sections that sounded like biosphere through frosted glass. Slowly, he built up a haze of gated pads and ringshifted atmospherics. I kept waiting for something of any real substance to happen...Sadly, it didn¹t and the whole performance looked and sounded like someone playing the Brian Eno app off their iPhone. After a short break (and trip to the bar for a cup of tea and some cake) Ralph Cumbers, aka Bass Clef in his ŒSome Truths¹ guise, carefully stepped through the audience on the floor and approached his intimidating Dopfer rack-mounted synth that had been tucked away at the back of the stage since the start of the night. Again, total silence fell before the first note had been played. Cumbers sat, back to the audience, facing the massive synth with its array of lights lit up like an air traffic control room ­ this beast looks like it would be far more at home in a science lab. Assuming the role of sonic scientist, he quickly coaxed some ear-piercing metallic stabs and weighty kicks from the machine. A basic arpeggiated pattern was introduced almost from the off and the next 20 minutes were a live deconstruction of the initial sounds... they gradually became more pixelated and started ricocheting off into the darkness Slowly, pops, kicks and knife-like metallics awkwardly pierced the underlying arp sequence as if they were trying agree on a pattern or harmony, but thankfully ending up further away from one the longer the performance went on. The initial repetition that was the basis for the first half of this performance suddenly became relevant as heads in the crowd started to nod and feet started tapping. We were taken out of the realm of the abstract and off on a woozy acid trip as the Dopfer and its controller uneasily settled on an arpeggiated bassline that sounded like a heavily warped multi track tape from the Trax records vault. Throughout the set, time lapsed projections of trees moving in the wind were cast over the musician and tables full of gear. The jerky and unpredictable movement of the images perfectly complemented the sounds being made. We were taken through alarmig shifts in tempo and some of the most beautiful acid basslines ever created. A totally imersive experience that had everyone in attendance totally mesmerised. We had to work to appreciate it, and that made it all the better. The main performace, by Ekoclef, can be broken in two. The first section consisting of delightfully primitive bleep and bass experiments, in the early stages it really felt like Nick Ekoplekz was leading the proceedings, it was a visible process of the two artists becoming comfortable with each other on stage, lets not forget that the inital collabs that led to this performance were created on tapes by each artist in their own studio and then sent back and forth via royal mail... at first there was a lack of eye contact, just Ekoplekz crafting monolithic sounds like the horn of a supertanker miles off course in the night, pitching and rolling in the darkness of the storm. out of the darkness comes the instantly recognisable synth sweep from one of the stand-out tracks off the ŒTapeswap¹ album, ŒLens Flare oh Yeah¹. It was just a tease however, never fully developing into the track off the tape, instead moving into a tortured dialog between ekoplekz¹ electric guitar and Bass Clefs¹ swelling sine bass notes. As we neared the end of the set,  glowing delayed chord stabs filled the room, crafted by Clef and complimented by the terrifying clashes of Ekoplekz¹ abused spring reverb. This is the beauty of their collaboration, seeing and hearing Cumbers gradually adding color to the intimidating monochrome canvas that Ekoplekz had started. Playing the tracks from the album would have been too obvious, and after all, what would be the point? The most enjoyable part of the performance was watching the live collaboration between these sonically opposite artists unfold as the explore the middle ground where their artistic visions overlap. nearing the end of the second part, the omnipresent trombone is freed from behind a pile of flight cases and we are treated to the highlight of the evening, perhaps the saddest horn melody ever heard by man, run through an echo chamber, a truly heartwarming display from both, seeing the performance start off uneasily and ending on such a melancholic yet harmonious note. I remember talking to Ekoplekz after a recent solo performance and him saying that he gets so lost in his sound that he never looks at the audience, ŒIm just amazed when I look up at the end and there are still people watching¹ he said...No need to worry about that on this occasion though, the performance (and audience silence) lasted until the last remnants of the blue horn melody had echoed out of the maze of circuits on the table infront of us, and every single person in attendance was totally silent for a few moments, obviously trying to comprehend what had just happened. It was a beautiful moment.