Saturday, November 21, 2009

review: audion at smartbar

this past weekend, matthew dear returned to chicago under his audion guise to present his 'hecatomb' live show. i had seen the this audio/visual show over the summer in europe twice, including the debut in barcelona, so i had a good idea of what to expect for the night, but i was still impressed.

i stepped into smartbar around 1:30am to see local dj frankie vega warming up the crowd... with some intense high-bpm techno. i immediately noticed three circular screens hung from the ceiling as well as one big screen covering part of the dance floor; my worrying that this wouldn't have the visual accompaniment was for naught, and as frankie finished his set, i could see matthew and others prepare the audio and visual equipment for his set.

as i expected, matthew started his live set verrrry slowly, with just a few fragments of sound chained together that developed into a propulsive minimal techno groove. smartbar is good for thumping bass, but not so much for mids, probably because it's pretty cave-like. when i saw this in barcelona with a bigger, taller venue, the mids sparkled (and it was amazing). at smartbar, not so much, but that's a minor gripe; you could still definitely hear matthew's trademark chords and glitches over the never-ending chug-chug rhythm. i could understand how it may have sounded boring or noisy to some but i just love this frustrating, sexual, style of edm. i absolutely loved the transitions, which seemed to make the music go in and out of focus. throughout the night, i could feel how matthew would use the set rhythm as a jumping-off point. one highlight was an excellent live take on "look at the moon", which was dropped off the 1-beat and kept like that for its duration.

the screens worked well, given the low ceiling of the club. there were a few different combinations of visuals (mostly geometric/circular shapes), which were very psychedelic, especially when matthew 'strobed' them blindingly to mess with your vision. the music reached a disorienting sort of 'peak' as matthew slowed everything down to a noisy, distorted drone, from which he built back up for one last pummeling section.

i'm pretty familiar with most of matthew dear's stuff, but i could only point out a few loops and sections of familiar material. smartbar was filled nicely and the dancefloor stayed filled for the entire set, with more than a few heads just standing and watching the displays in a trance; for this reason i wish the crowd would have been flooded with masked people like the barcelona set (see his website) just to freak everyone out a little... for the nerds: matthew used two computers. i didn't catch more than a glimpse of the computer handling the visuals, but i noticed his computer was running ableton live and he used a standard dj mixer and mpd-24 midi controller. he played about 90 minutes standalone, building his set from nothing and taking it apart at the end.

after his set i was able to chat him up briefly as he took his setup apart. he says he's got a new matthew dear (vocal) album coming out in the spring.

all in all, a great show, and a convincing statement for the power behind synchronized audio and visual art.

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