Tuesday, November 07, 2006

7inch cinema

I am sitting on the cutting edge of Birmingham Arts culture - and I have to say it's a little uncomfortable. Maybe it's the hard stool, or the hunched position I have to stay in so not to obscure the view of the rather large crowd of fashionistas and culture groupies, but mostly the uncomfort, at the moment, derives from the jumble of beeps and squawks coming from the "band" calling themselves the ZX Spectrum orchestra.

Apparently its music, but obviously too avant-garde for me to get my boozy head round, all the sounds, according to the events programme, come from vintage Spectrum computers. That is not a surprise, I was a proud owner of a ZX in my youth, and all the "songs" so far sound like my old computer loading such classics as Dizzy Goes Swimming and Robocop that is to say; a baffling array of squeks and whistles. I know that the old ZX is capable of more than this - there was one tape I could load that would make it play a tinny but passable version of Love in an Elevator by Aerosmith accompanied by a saucy yet pixellated of a woman in a lift.

Nostalgia aside, it seemed that they opened with the abstract stuff first, and I have to admit to enjoying them now, when the songs do stray into the more structured less experimental type they are not only bearable but actually good. The two "out" geeks comprising the combo come across with such off-hand nerd charm it is hard not to enjoy the set

The best, and by best, I mean mainstream (which lets face it to my traditional ears, in this case, means the same thing), is Dollar Power, a thumping electro mash of ropey voice emulation and the basic shrill quacks inherent the ZX, kind of like what Stephan Hawkins would sound like if he blew off the science stuff and fronted an electro band.

I really got a kick out of the gig in the end and will probley even go out of my way to see them again (high praise indeed, I wouldn't normally cross the road to see the Second Coming, I am that jaded and lazy).

Upon reflection my original negativity towards them was probley more to do with the fact they was disturbing the lovely cosy feel of the video screening before them, there was a series of shorts films culled from the Slo-mo project plus a couple more, it was nice to walk into a busy yet silent pub of like minded people and watch a big screen that had something other than football on it.

The videos in general, were only a minute long, and vary in degrees of quality and success. This is meant that if you don't enjoy that particular short you didn't have to put up with it for long. The submission policy is very open ended and rather than give the night an amateurish feel, it gave the impression of a progressive and inclusive one.

The final band were, frankly, a bit shit. I wasn't really looking forward to them, the name was enough to put me off – Einstellung, that, coupled with the quote from Will Wenders they had included in the programme, about "perceiving the world" or some such. So when the DJ (VJ? MC?) said "the next band are only doing one song" I honestly thought it to be a top result, but then he finished "but its half an hour long" I knew I was in for exactly the sort of sonic landscape muse-esque noodlings that are both pretentious and tiresome, and I wasn't wrong. It was the same boring refrain repeated over and over, which, built to a equally dull crescendo. What I really resented was the fact the band looked terribly pleased with themselves, which they had no reason to.


7inch cinema

ZX Spectrum Orchestra

Einstellung, if you can be arsed


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