FLUXMUSIC: Astral Industries / Chi live at Cafe Oto
CHI began their performance with quiet, pastoral soundscapes (with an early appearance of ‘Twisted Camel’). Front-man Hanyo van Oosterom made soft low rumbles on the piano, while Koos Derwort’s flutter-tonguing on the bamboo flute could have mimicked the distant cry of exotic birds. Near-atonal improvisations wandered above textures of water, sea, and rain (a great arrangement of their track ‘Mahat‘), with Michel Banabila’s subtle and capable management of sound material via the laptop and hardware.
The sound was immersively psychedelic, yet at the same time it was imbued with a distinctly human quality – something that was relatable yet ethereal. Oosterom’s sparse scat singing somehow worked amazingly, his seemingly whimsical interjections perfectly placed, before they faded back into the deep forest backdrop. Through certain passages he would add slow, simple basslines and riffs on the guitar that further added shades of jazz and blues to the music. Everything was quietly clear, yet cooly understated, subtle yet vitally present. Sat to the side of the performers was Thomas Bouvy working the visuals on the projector, who played animated versions of the album art and visual tapestries of fields and more abstract overlays.
“Let’s declare time… officially ended” proclaimed Oosterom, over a bed of glistening textures; “- Because we work on the other side of time”… The band had hit a low-slung groove, threaded so loosely it was milimetres from dissipating, yet it held together through the musicians’ phenomenal sense of rhythm – it was aspects such as these that really showed the real level of their musicianship. Snippets of folk motifs from the piano littered the space, as Banabila would embellish with percussion shakers and a güiro, Derwort occasionally changing between flute and clarinet. At one point there was some unintentional feedback from the PA, but even this seemed to fit in, like some external transmission from outer space.
'Before The Mountain' emerged to the fore, and was admittedly one of the most sublime passages of music I’ve ever heard. Sombre pads and synths came in like soft rays of light, its undulating movements pondering upon the very edges of reality. A slow, chugging beat followed and Oosterom moved to the drums, as things went more percussive.
The performance ended with a guest appearance from spoken word artist Anthony Joseph. After settling into the light ambient sway of the music, he began his poetic incantations. The monotony of his voice was penetrating, as musical motifs danced around his words. After finishing one piece, he announced a tribute to Hyperdub’s Spaceape, a long-time and sadly now deceased friend of his. There was a conviction and directness in his delivery that became ever more potent alongside the liturgical durg of the band, with Joseph preaching his message with a near-evangelical power.