On the 21st July, The Vortex audience was treated to a most unusal event by Pianist Dave Morecroft (World Service Project) laptop whiz Leafcutter John and artist Gina Southgate. Southgate’s is a name that should be familiar to any Vortex attendee as it is her depictions of musicians and past gigs that adorn the walls of the club. A night of collaboration was to follow between the worlds of acoustic sound, electronic manipulation and abstract art and the audience, although small, was clearly excited by the prospect.
Ominous photos were taken of the three pristine canvases as various jugs, pots and spray bottles of colour were carried forward to the stage to the right of which were a collection of sundries including a barbeque grill and various lengths of plastic tube.
The first improvisation began enthusiastically with Morecroft disappearing inside the piano to pick, strum and slap whilst Southgate slashed and ripped back the plastic wrapping from the canvas with clamouring purpose. Leafcutter John was always alert and was quick to regurgitate manipulated sounds of the ensuing ruckus. Mostly abstract, the soundscapes never lingered too long and coalesced at times into pulsing trance like grooves.
The group dynamic took a twist with a more conventional instrumental with Morecroft’s original composition Underneath. Chanting and soaring like Satie, the music was lifted further by Leafcutter John’s textural presence. Southgate quietly captured the duet on a small canvas using a roller.
Southgate’s movements throughout the set were captivating as she applied paint in bold strokes, printed, sprayed, smeared and clattered about the stage with her various equipment (although sometimes a little gratuitously). At the times when her actions and the live sounds would naturally and coincide, magic was made.
The set was truly of the moment with each improvisation yielding its own painting. Revisiting an earlier canvas during the final number saw the additional scrapes and adherences give way to a dynamic picture that seemed to capture the mood of evening perfectly.
The performance was engaging throughout with each member of the unconventional trio acting with constant conviction, an impressive feat when considering that this was their first venture together. With the motivation and chosen stimulus of each member changing at various moments, the link between the audible and the visual developed as the set progressed. It was witnessing this creative process that was most exciting and assured the audience that they were witnessing something special.
There are no plans as yet to show the paintings produced so interested parties should ensure their attendance at the next gig, should there be one. I certainly hope so.