Robert Henke, aka Monolake, stopped off in London on his “Ghosts in Surround Tour”, playing music from his new album, Ghosts, in—yes—surround sound, with real-time generative visuals.
In support was the almost brutally efficient Peverelist, aka Tom Ford, DJing for two hours before Monolake’s midnight slot, and then for another hour afterwards.
Early set, Peverelist played tribute to Monolake’s roots in Basic Channel/Chain Reaction (97s Hongkong on Chain Reaction remains a touchstone Monolake album), before going on to stream a diaphragm-rattling fusion of techno and heavyweight Dubstep that proved a hard act to follow.
The atmosphere actually dipped a little when Monolake’s set began, signalled by a lull and the sudden animation of a screen on one wall, which everyone stopped dancing to watch.
Monolake specialises in lubricated machine rhythms characterised by deep bass throbs, teeming with microscopic sonic shards and subtle, grainy particles of noise. Multi-channel audio and real-time computer animations are designed to place the listener in a deep-sensory sound field, but there is little creative use of the spatialisation effects in evidence; the club soundsystem still pumps out the beats, while monitor speakers at the foot of the video screen emit ambient grime.
As Henke puts it, the performance software he produces (including the Ableton Live loop-based sequencer, which he had a hand in developing), enables him to “shape and actually play the music in a concert situation, explor(ing) acousmatic concepts, ambisonics, and wave field synthesis for diffusion of sound in space.”
Monolake’s live beats are much more heavily syncopated than his recorded music, and thanks to Fabric’s soundsystem, the bass could be felt bodily, in deep abdominal reverberations. In more avant passages, both sound and visuals evoked the fractured Cubase manipulations of Amon Tobin’s turn-of-the-millennium live show; which is a good thing, naturally.
Monolake’s visuals were the work of Dutch audiovisual artist Tarik Barri, Henke’s collaborator since 2009. For a taste of the whole package, there’s a “collaborative test with video + improvised audio based on the track “The Existence of Time”” on the Monolake website.