Brighton Fringe 2011
A unique musical and visual experience featuring a plethora of unusual instruments and robots
Spacedog presented a unique musical and visual experience featuring a plethora of unusual instruments and robots. Fittingly, the sound of Kraftwerk filled the air as we awaited the show. The stage was set with a ventriloquists’ dummy’s head, a robot crow (Edgar Allan), various percussion instruments including a waterphone and a carillion (made from automated chiming bells), a musical saw and a theremin, as well as a couple of laptops and a guitar.
The performers arrived on stage looking weird, but strangely elegant, and began by playng something reminiscent of a surrealist film soundtrack, with haunting vibes from Stephen Hiscock, Sarah Angliss playing the Moog theremin with her trademark fixed stare, and Colin Uttley sporting Adams family style make up. Samples of old televison programmes wafted over the soundscape as a homemade ‘Televisor’—as invented by John Logie Baird —whirled into action. Spacedog educate as they perform.
The next number introduced Jenny Angliss on vocals. She sang a beautifully bleak, and very moving, song —medieval and folky—which was accompanied by Sarah on the recorder. The mood was lifted by Edgar Allen Crow performing a duet with Sarah using samples from a Fifties recording on ‘How to teach your parakeet to talk.’ As the robot moved his head and sang, the whole song bizarrely came across as quite philosophical. This was followed by an old, short film of a woman undergoing hypnosis, with Spacedog providing ethereal sound effects on bowed Waterphone, Glockenspiel and Melodica through an echo effect.
Following some fascinating facts regarding BBC announcers in the 1930s’, Uttley then introduced their guest for the evening – Professor Elemental, who sported a pith helmet and clay pipe, and proceeded to entertain with his ‘chap hop’ raps. It’s a bit like an update on 1950’s beat poetry such as ‘Word Jazz’ and was highly entertaining. He interacted with the audience and referred to the evening as ‘like being at a strange aunt’s house – weird, but at the same time exciting.’
Spacedog then performed a song about 3 ‘myths’—the Lankin, the Revenants ( the dead who arrive in our homes on the eve of Martinmas), and the true tale of the woman who passed an electrical current through her baby as a lullaby. All beautifully illustrated by Jenny’s haunting singing voice, Theremin midi’d up to laptop and the Carillion. It felt like an audio version of The Shining, played on instruments thrown together in sheds somewhere near Bletchley Park. This was followed by a song in a style reminiscent of the band Einstürzende Neubauten about the Soviet Ecranopan – a giant Hydrofoil – then the very sad tale of Laika, the dog sent into space in a Sputnik rocket, and some film of a 1970’s scientific experiment involving men climbing in and out of tunnels to great comedic effect, which was enhanced by Hiscock’s balloon manipulations.
All in all this was one of the most unusual evenings of the Fringe. The experience was of very high quality both visually, musically and, most of all, conceptually. Like mediaeval electronica meets Trip Hop meets Tomorrow’s World. Superb.