Tim Hecker at Cabaret Sauvage

Support: Kelly Moran| Mondkopf
June 6, 2019 at Cabaret Sauvage
Promoter: La Villette

With its sunny weather, beautiful site and mind-opening line-up of artists, la Villette Sonique is a staple summer event in the French capital. Audiences of all ages flock to the 19th Arrondissement of Paris to spend some quality time in the sun with their friends and family. I would assume that a fair share of the festival-goers don’t know much about the artists performing on the open stages, but food, fun and a fair share of free-spirited Parisians in shining new summer clothes ought to reel you in, no matter what kind of music happens to be playing. Throw in some “supplements” and alcohol in the mix and you’ve basically got yourself a breeding ground for hipsters, both literally and figuratively. Pee in some bushes and the bushes might very well yell back at you in French. As bad luck would have it, however, this year’s free, open-air festivities were met with abysmal weather conditions, with heavy downpours and strong winds severely undermining the festivals habitually sunny vibes. Many stayed inside as a result of this, but many stood strong nonetheless.

Disheartened by the less than favourable circumstances, I ended up focusing on the festival’s indoor concerts, having been invited to three of the four evening shows. My first rendezvous was thus set for the lovely Cabaret Sauvage, set right along the Ourq canal running through the park, for an evening dedicated to ambient and experimental sounds. A decent crowd had gathered ahead of the scheduled venue opening, enough to have me be greeted by Kelly Moran’s opening set by the time I got into the dimly lit venue. Clanging prepared piano resonances danced and washed over the room, coming in waves of unpredictable yet somehow organic textures of harmony. Hanging high up the ceiling to each side of the stage were screens displaying otherworldly lights, shapes and colours glistening and shifting with each subsequent wave of sounds. Though Miss Moran’s performance was severely hindered by major technical difficulties causing repeated, extensive disruptions during the set, the deeply embarrassed artist was able to entice and immerse her audience enough with her free-flowing musical pieces, drawing marvels out of what must have been a nightmarish set at her end.

The stage was then set for our star-child of otherworldly soundscapes to take the stage. Armed with a brand new album, Mondkopf offered a full rendition of the ambient drone epic, complete with live visuals and a massive live sound to complete the immersive experience. The brooding, textured delving into the atmosphere and the sonic imagery of How Deep is Our Love?  was set and brought to a boiling point with titanic intensity and vigour, gripping us with its awe-inspiring sense of magnitude. Every bit of melody and rhythm emerging from the wilderness was met with swaying movements in the crowd, who was immersed from head to toe thanks to the earthquake-like low end that caused the entire room to rumble and tremble. The screens were twisting and swaying under the sound pressure, effectively distorting the landscape imagery as the music gained in intensity, much like it would during a fairly strong acid trip. Mondkopf does not mess around. I like to think I was once in love, but I have yet to experience anything quite as deep as this.

Next up, headlining the first evening was none other than Tim Hecker, returning once again with a ghostly performance alongside the Konoyo Ensemble. Otherworldly would indeed be the appropriate word to qualify this performance, as it honoured the pair’s latest album Anoyo (which translates to “That world over there”), the follow-up and counterpart to Konoyo (“This world over here”), a record marked by stark minimalism and a ritualistic tone that dips into the paranormal. The gagaku (imperial court music) ensemble are here given the literal centre-stage, with Tim Hecker only supporting the duo’s captivating, deliberate stage performance with discrete ambiences. The ceremonial aspect takes over a fair share of the show, with both musicians neatly changing places and instruments, switching between percussions and oriental wind instruments such as the shō and the ryūteki. Meanwhile, Tim is hiding behind thick gusts of smoke, fiddling god-knows-what behind his desk. Silence seemed to play as much a part in the performance as any other resonances filling up the room. Though this may not have been the presentation some were expecting from Tim Hecker, the artist certainly did certainly deliver the one-of-a-kind we always hope to get. It’s not every night that you get to cross the thresholds of reality and bask in the Vantablack void of the netherworlds beyond.

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