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Culture Reviews
Noise Ensemble
MDM Concert Hall 
“Hit me with your phythm stick”
By Reiner Torheit
Have you got an annoying colleague who's always tapping rhythms on his desk? Send them along to Noise Ensemble - the cult Brit performance-art showteam who've made tapping rhythms into an artform.

The brains behind the bashing is film-composer, producer and ex-percussionist Ethan Lewis Maltby, with the visuals masterminded by Ben M Rodgers. The two-part gig is a clever synthesis of the primal with the sensual, and despite the visual appeal of a team of groovily-apparelled fit bods of both sexes bashing the hell out of tom-toms, for my money it was the more subtle and delicate numbers which were the highlight of the show. Scott Foster, Nat Butler, Amy Kelly and Louise Samuels drew luscious textures from a dazzling array of xylophones, glockenspiels and marimbas - not only with phenomenal stick technique, but using violin-bows on the glocks and all kinds of other sweet sounds too. The uncredited compositions are presumably Maltby's - a delectable fusion of latin sounds with contemporary harmonies and and melodic fragments.

I somehow doubt many of the audience got much of the linking video material- an amusing spoof of British TV programmes of different kinds (everything from DIY shows in which a dedicated loon crafts his own drumstick from a chunk of tree, through to online shopping for a guiro - “only 139 left in stock”). The satire in this was a bit too subtle - many people thought it was for real? And the British weights and measures (the heights and weights of the performers given in feet and inches, and stones and pounds) only added to the confusion here. However, this was far from being a major inhibiting factor on enjoying the evening - two generously-long sets with a spectacular light show.

A pity the MDM hall remained resolutely half-empty for the entire show - probably a mistake, in retrospect, to try to fill up two gigs when one would have been enough? Despite a sorely-needed makeover of the public areas, the MDM remains a grim venue for this kind of gig... the Attendants seem to have been recruited from amongst the ranks of the Stasi? When it was clear it was going to start at least 40 minutes late, they actually refused to let us leave the hall to go to the bar! Not that we'd missed much... the huge and well-designed bar remained resolutely closed, and one girl sold half-melted ice-cream and warm drinks from what looked like a Bring-&-Buy Table at a Scout Jamboree. Considering the top-end ticket-price, this was a long way from acceptable for an evening out. They actually refused to put the orange juice in the Campari, and said we could buy a carton of orange juice separately and do it ourselves.. a bit like going to a concert in a Railwayman's Palace Of Culture in Tarakansk in 1987. Woeful, substandard, and a blight on the evening.

Anyone who wants to know what they missed can buy some cheap drinks from their local corner kiosk, take them home (taking care not to chill them to consumption-temperature on the way) and take a look at Noise Ensemble's homepage.

30.05.06
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