Aphex Twin: Remote Orchestra / Barbican
All photos: Aphex Twin: Remote Orchestra, Barbican © Mark Allan
If Aphex Twin is a deity of electronic music, then this was him giving a service at a Sunday communion. Only replace the usual tea and crumpets brigade with 30-something Guardian readers, the sermon for waves of atmospheric, ambient noise and the stain glass with massive lasers.
The 'Remote Orchestra' title lived up to its namesake. The first half of the show (an Aphex Twin show with an interval!) saw the man also known as Richard David James control The Heritage Orchestra and Choir through a series of visual prompts representing volume and playing technique; along with vocal commands which I presume came through on the players' headphones. The project is in its early stages but the sheer amount of thought, technical and musical ability needed to make forty minutes of avante garde noise not be an effort to listen through is astounding. Especially to someone who can't event play a bar chord on a guitar. It's actually the magic of not knowing what was going on which made the show all the more better, Aphex Twin exists in some constant state of paranormal musical activity. It's his magicianship which has made him so exciting over his career.
Part two of the night started with a grand piano swinging on an elevated platform from one side of the stage to the other, while Mr Twin played a melancholic classical piece on it via a remote midi key board (yeah, that was just a side note to the night). The visual feast continued soon after as the warped one got back behind his desk of buttons and knobs hidden towards the back of the stage and proceeded to delve us into a twenty minute, ambient, droning, engulphing wave of sound created by bouncing lasers off of pendulum disco balls and into microphones.
If that sounds bonkers, it's because it was.
The whole thing culminated in the room being infested with sharp spikes of green light interweiving into a spiderweb shape while the sheer level of bass put you into a trance like state.
For a man who's been at the forefront of EDM for twenty plus years, the end of show, putting his two thumbs up as a thank you indicator to the audience gave away no signs that we were in the midsts of a living legend. You could go into the ins and outs of the technical acomplishments in a critical way, but because I can't I'm not going to. Aphex Twin's Orchestra is an event for feeling, not for thought. If every Sunday service was like this I'd be down every week. Let's pray Aphex Twin keeps coming back to give us more.