Rashad Becker & Croatian Amor – Into a surreal spacial continuum (live report)

Feature Most read March 5 2018, af passive/aggressive IMG_0346

Live report from Rashad Becker and Croatian Amor, Proton, 16.02.2018 – Words and images by Cameron Pagett.

It’s super windy, my face is nearly numb and I am pedaling as hard as I can through another cold Copenhagen winter night. Normally my breathing wouldn’t be so hard, my effort not so severe and the numerous frigid tears falling from my eyes so many, but I am hurrying for a noble cause… I don’t want to be late to see Croatian Amor. It’s the first show from the exciting team at Proton in one of Copenhagen’s newest and most exciting venues “Alice”, and I don’t want to miss a second of it. I’m whipping my phone out of my pocket at every light to check the time, a train fiasco has put me on the verge of tardiness and I feel as if I risk frostbite akin to an Arctic explorer each time I expose bare skin to a -3 night.

Small orbs of light illuminate the facade of Alice in a small courtyard of Sankt Hans Torv and my heartbeat begins to slow even as I hurry to secure my bike. I have just received a text from a friend already inside that the set has begun but a few minutes before and I can already feel the familiar texture of noise seeping with the night mist through the walls giving me a feeling of warmth as I get closer to the door. After a brief chat with an old colleague I make my way into the mainstage room and it’s packed. I’m not the tallest person and it seems that every 1.9 meter plus person in Europe has taken up a spot in the back of a very dark room.

The dim lights from the bar and faint glimmers of stage light intermittently give me my first visual clues in a venue I am visiting for the first time. I can see curtains, I see heads and all I hear is the rise and fall of Loke Rahbek’s new material and the pin-drop silences between melody, voices and beat.

I need to get to the front of the room and program my camera for what will be a very challenging lowlight setting. It seems perilous with the room at near capacity and I try to find an elevated space for a longshot as I start to doubt I will be able to reach the front and would hate to disturb anyone’s experience with an ill-timed shove. My new search doesn’t un-earth anything I can climb on, but instead reveals a rather imposing tall man making his way to where I want to be along the edges of the black curtains which hug the walls. I take my chance quickly and duck in behind his juggernaut frame fast-tracking my way in his wake to the promised land. The room seems to darken the closer I get to the stage and faces are only familiar within a few feet as the front becomes a more possible destination. I spot my friends a few rows from what feels like the front when I begin to notice something very cozy happening where the first few rows of people would be standing. There is not much to sit on other then the stage, and people are huddling on the floor in clusters along the wall and directly in front. Some looking up to view Rahbeck’s statuesque performance style, others with their heads tucked down or into eachother taking in the dark, melancholic and slightly urban soundscape filling the room. Feeling a sense recognition, I huddle in next to them and begin falling into line with the new set curious to explore the adventure when Croatian Amor paints a story in sound.

Rahbek’s solo project Croatian Amor is a now well known name in the Experimental Noise and general DIY-scene in Copenhagen and parts of Europe after numerous, successful releases on posh isolation and Edition Mego. Admirers and listeners have come to adore a sound that can be described as complex, thought provoking, and romantic with an underlaying tone of feint melancholia. With all new material filling the room I would venture on the side of caution when describing what I experienced as I feel music from Croatian Amor is best described from a point of familiarity. What I heard as I began to unthaw in the warmth of the room built a sense of high curiosity. Less frenetic and bombastic in practice, Rahbek seems to be working with a more metropolitan soundscape then what has been presented in previous outings. Drawing on what felt to be a less mystical, more concrete and metallic sound, the music was, as is custom with Croatian Amor, penetrative yet more cinematic in scope. One person remarked “The music puts me in a prison of my own mind, and I can feel all my worries but its exactly what I needed. It left me feeling re-charged.”

Steering clear from the usual feminine and mythical ambiguity in voice overs, the new material from Croatian Amor seemed to favor a more soulful and old world female presence with looping voice-overs proclaiming “Do you feel the way that I do?” as the set simmered to a close. The room was dim, the room was filled with sound, then the room was silent and seemingly as quickly as the performance began the lights gave a final salute and Rahbeck left the stage.

Proton is an independent collective dedicated to bringing acts that are both exciting and adventurous as well as brimming with quality. Existing for a little over three years and made up of the same crew who are responsible for experimental electronic music festival Phono and booking at the now closed Jazzhouse they look to curate adventurous electronic music. Not strangers to the exotic and unpredictable the night marked the first collaboration with the now merged venue Alice. Importantly it brought a special show and appearance from Berlin based DIY legend Rashad Becker to close the night. With upcoming shows from Low Jack & Black Zone Myth Chant and a first time CPH performance from Carla Dal Forno its safe to say that this group look set to become the prominent name in alternative and experimental music in Copenhagen for the present and near future.

(To be continued below…)

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After a smoke and nice conversations with friends on the patio between sets most of the audience and some new faces crowded back into the auditorium. Dressed in a dotted shirt with his customary heavy framed black optics Becker struck a loungy yet elegant silhouette against the sparse lighting and black curtains. Known for his devotion to the de-construction of jazz and warping of music form nothing about the show betrayed that notion. Starting with long, looping and rounded notes the absurd sounds seemed to crawl up the walls and dwell in the curvature of the rooms architecture. While Rahbeck’s music seemed to stimulate the inner prision of the mind, Beckers music as one viewer put it “seemed to float above the crown of the head in bulbous and mesmerizing shapes of orange and yellow. It messed with my mind on an intuitive level, but in a way I won’t describe as negative.”

As the set progressed the loops became longer and the shifts from base to the higher pitches more pronounced and surreal. The music Becker elected to play felt as if it existed in an unknown spacial continuum shifting in forms with rounded edges. Explorative to the point of obsession, Becker seems to follow his sounds from the perspective of a fascinated researcher allowing the textures to accompany a dynamic and ultimately liberated sound structure. Original in sound, yet allergic to predictable material the set created both interest and an undeniable sentiment of polarization as many trickled from the room before the set drew to a close. The sounds Becker chose to perform with are not easy listening and are not attached too severely to linear experience but seem to draw upon experience itself as the key component to appreciation. The music is challenging, as one person put it, “I felt I needed to sit in order to listen to it properly.”

Back on the patio with beer and cigarrettes huddling with friends and moving about I was able to speak with many of the patrons. I had a particularly interesting talk with a British couple just moving from London to Nørrebro.  They commented that they always looked on the crowd below from their adjacent apartment and wondered what was happening. Tonight was the night they decided to venture into the unknown and they were both full of questions as to what they just witnessed. An experimental noise line-up isn’t something many people are used to. The Proton adventure continues here at Alice, and if all else fails at least we can have some cigarrettes on the patio while cuddling in the cold conversing on the things that inspire us looking forward to our next experience challenging us with something out of the ordinary.

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Info: See upcoming Proton concerts at their Facebook-page.