David Bowie is everywhere. The strains of Blackstar, his 25th and final studio album, welcomes us into the Howard Assembly Room tonight. Two hours later his recorded voice serenades us out of the building and into the clear Black Friday night. In between those two points in time his huge artistic influence can also be heard, perhaps most notably on but one of the dozen-or-so live-coded pieces that the Sheffield experimentalists 65daysofstatic create this evening. It is the one which most surely has its genesis somewhere on the flip-side of Low, the first album in Bowie’s Berlin Trilogy where the author dislocates a sound from some other faraway world.
Spin that vinyl record over and amongst all of the other swaggering futurism on there you would hear the euphoric isolation of ‘Sound and Vision’. It is a song that reaches a place where Bowie patiently waits for the gift that these combined senses will eventually bring. Were he still alive and with us here in this room tonight his wait would most surely be over for this particular 65daysofstatic trio manage to coalesce the elements of both sound and vision into a design for the hereafter, one that Bowie often imagined but possibly never thought would be fully realised.
And 65daysofstatic achieve this end by presenting us with their most recent project, ‘Decomposition Theory or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Demand the Future’. It is a project that requires the musicians to approach a live performance in a more algorithmic way. Premiered just over a year ago at their home town’s Festival of Algorithmic and Mechanical Movement it was then described by the band as “music that will be generated in real time by various algorithms we have made to do our bidding, or code that we type live”. 65daysofstatic have now taken ‘Decomposition Theory’ out on the road and given its inherent live-editing processes, no two performances are ever the same. It is as unique as it is ephemeral.
The three men on stage tonight do have conventional musical instruments – guitars, keyboards and drums – but these are carefully controlled and altered in real time through customized software and played out against a huge backdrop of rapidly changing projected images. These visual elements contain a staggering flow of statistical codes and data which for those of us not fully versed in some of the finer nuances of Intermediate Value Theorem may mean little or nothing, but for others will clearly evidence the precise value representations of the music that is being played and the paths it is taking.
And just in case it all starts to get a little too esoteric there is a wonderful mash-up of shots that juxtapose flickering images of George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984, a book by fiction author Danielle Steel, a review of the cyberpunk film Tetsuo: The Bullet Man, an “out of order” sign placed outside a gentlemen’s toilet and a placard pronouncing that “It’s Just A Ride”.
Carefully balancing enigma with experiment, it all makes for the most bold and fascinating of rides. 65daysofstatic are often referred to as a post-rock band. On this evidence alone they have moved far beyond that musical timeframe to somewhere approaching the outer limits of possibility. One day all music will sound something like this.
Photos: Simon Godley