Reviewed by David Famularo
Wits End, at the southern entrance to Featherston, is better known for its new age products than live music. But this has changed with a partnership between Victoria Brown and musician and artist Campbell Kneale.
Given the unique character of the venue, a brief description is deserved, this being a space about the size of a small living room which makes for limited ticket sales, a homelike environment, and complete focus on the music and musician only an arms-reach away.
I had already listened to recordings of Birchville Cat Motel, the name Kneale usually performs under, but this turned out to be a shadow of the impact his music has when performed live.
Kneale started off by moving into a prayful state, breathing into a microphone to create a sound akin to Tibetan throat singing.
Through a combination of cheap electronics, percussive instruments and malfunctioning appliances, Kneale then began to gradually alter the texture of the music which evolved into a crescendo of sound and energy, but never lost its subtlety, or became overpowering.
Anyone who has ever lost themselves totally in music will understand the essence of Kneale’s performance, the difference being that Kneale has trained himself to enter that state of mind in front of a live audience, a feat of courage and skill not to be underestimated.
As the music continued to evolve, Kneale slowly distilled the river of sound back into a human voice but not his, a neat and tidy way of coming back into the conscious realm.
Where Kneale’s music had an almost industrial edge to it, Gooch, best known as a member of Trinity Roots but performing solo under the title “0-0”, was more reminiscent of your French Impressionists like Debussy and Satie, with a delicate and richly melodic composition.
While sitting comfortably under the label of “minimalist electronica”, Gooch’s music was both a classical and jazz inspired – the arrangements were orchestral while the performance was improvised in the spirit of jazz.
While Gooch primarily used electronic instrumentation, he included live percussion to enrich the sound and add extra elements of spontaneity.
The overall impression of the night was that while electronica is mostly critically overlooked, in the hands of musicians like Kneale and Gooch it expresses the present cultural moment better than any other musical genre.