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Going East, With Music, Words and Images

Purcell Room
03/19/2011 -  
Lola Perrin: Abandon – Julia’s Chorus – G Mass * – Intertitles I ** – Going East ***
Lola Perrin (piano/synthesiser), Natacha Atlas (voice) ***, Roland Perrin (piano) *, Kate Shortt (cello) **/***, Sarah Watts (bass clarinet) **, Alexis Kirke (electronics) **/***, Jonathan Bonnici (writer/narrator) **, Phil Maxwell & Hazuan Hashim (film makers) ***

L. Perrin (© www.ilpomusto.co.uk)

Lola Perrin’s recital began in contemplative fashion, with Abandon and Julia’s Chorus from her Silver Suite for solo piano. Having come in from the bustle, noise and bright lights of the Southbank Centre and the Embankment, the reverberating dreamy Debussy-esque chords had immediate effect in setting a peaceful mood – one could see some audience members’ shoulders visibly un-hunching as they relaxed into the evening. The energy level was soon raised, however, when Perrin was joined by elder brother Roland for a single-piano duet of G Mass, a fascinating trip through a variety of styles – one moment reminiscent of Nyman, the next Scriabin, or Keith Jarrett – all skilfully blended into a highly original whole. It was also fascinating to see and hear the two Perrins duetting, and drawing such different sounds from the same instrument; Lola’s warm, flowing groove in the bass contrasting with Roland’s spiky stabbing improvisatory style in the treble, in a way that almost shouldn’t have worked, yet entirely did.

Actor/writer Jonathan Bonnici announced his presence by clomping across the stage during the final bar of the preceding section of music and berating the audience for not having applauded quickly enough. The audience, who had been enjoying the fading resonance of the final chord, were not won over by this interruption, and thus Bonnici’s next comment was to berate one member of the audience for making a rude finger gesture at him. The piece Intertitles I consisted of Bonnici reciting his own “The start, the stop” interspersed with Perrin’s music for the Nimuch Ensemble (piano/synthesiser, cello, bass clarinet and electronics). As a devotee of Reichian minimalism – less so of performance poetry – I found the music far the more engaging of the two creative modes, despite Bonnici’s characterful delivery. Perrin has been described in various media as ‘a female Steve Reich’ – a strange simplification which, frankly, does neither of them much service, particularly with the unnecessary gendering – however, in Intertitles I the Reich influence was at its clearest, from the start being in the harmonic, rhythmic and textural soundworld of Octet or Different Trains, particularly with Kirke’s inclusion of ‘real world’ audio samples.

Whereas in the first half, the music was settled fairly firmly in Euro-American traditions, Going East displayed more multicultural influences, in keeping with the subject matter of the film, which deployed a mixture of still images, time-lapse photography, new and archive footage to explore journeys from East London, through Europe and Asia to Cambodia (by foot, double-decker bus, DLR, canoe, steamboat, tuktuk and funicular, among others). The vocal and cello melodic writing, in particular, had a strong Asian feel to it, and the combination of these instruments in particular was somewhat reminiscent of Moushumi Bhowmik’s work with ensemble Parapar. Natacha Atlas joined the ensemble for the second half of the concert, a vocalist I have long admired for both her superb control of microtonal pitch and tone colour, and expressively creative musicality. Atlas’s contribution to Going East I found surprisingly understated and lacking in showiness, but no less beguiling for it.

The Southbank Centre has made a name for itself with its multimedia programmes filled with interesting artists, and the Purcell Room has showcased Lola Perrin’s talents before. With a new series of collaborations planned (including Intertitles II, with Stockholm-based prose poet, scholar and experience designer Rolf Hughes), it is hoped that she will be back before too long.

Carla Finesilver



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