Red Bull Music Academy: Robert Henke's Lumière / The Haxan Cloak (US debut)
The Brooklyn Masonic Temple; Brooklyn, NY
I arrive with minutes to spare after bumping between Fulton and Greene for 10 minutes, stupidly having misread Google Maps. My thinking was not focused on finding the temple; I was considering the structural meaning of sound, how it is ensnared by language and such — fitting. I arrive at the temple, emerging out of a mass of classic, distinctly upper-middle class Brooklyn homes. Surrounding the temple is a large line, winding around the building. But there is a second mass — press. That was for me. I merge in, state my name — in. The temple features open hardwood floors leading to a stack of speakers and a fenced-off stage covered by a screen for projection. Hanging in the periphery, eclipsed by piercing spotlights, was the balcony, which is nearly full. I wait.
The thing about this performance is that the ideation of space, real space — so not the ideation, its point, weight in space — will be under attack. I’m excited by the possibility of being bowled over by sound, physical warpings of resonant frequencies and the congealing of sounds heard and unheard collapsing spaces within a zone. I remember the first time I heard “Taku” from Monolake’s Ghosts, the sound of a metal, spherical object hitting, bouncing, multiplying, and then dividing back into a singularity, sliding from one ear to the next.
Rising before his oddly jovial audience, Robert Henke appears docile and chipper, with a sheepish demeanor that’s infectious (isn’t it strange how shy and happy the “headier” musicians appear to be?). But despite his sheepishness, Henke requests no mobile phones be used during the performance, to which the crowd responds with strangely resounding applause. With a nod, Henke darts off the stage, appearing moments later behind a wall of projectors.
Although the press essentially calls Henke’s performance an advancement of the Pink Floyd laser-light show trope, the idea of spectacle is all but lost on me, as a single slither of light dots the massive screen. Before long, the room is submerged in dangerously low tones paired with panning drones and blistering snaps. Tumultuous, chest-shattering kicks strike and tumble half a breath behind the anchoring beat, as the two-dimensional, line-and-point-oriented lights shift into a generative and measured body of pivots and throbs.
I’ve always felt a romantic dystopianism in the sounds of dubstep, and Henke’s performance proves this to be more true than I initially thought. The fidelity-draining, form-twisting aspects of dub, applied to a firm beat pattern, is spectacular in its pinning-down of sonic qualities. Despite much of the “light show,” which was phenomenal in itself, the sound design is what strikes me the most: even as fog is expelled, bridging the lights toward an evolved three-dimensional prismatic shape, I am entranced by the uncanny valley-breaking sound objects employed by Henke.
Quickly after, The Haxan Cloak (real name Bobby Krlic) takes the stage for an intensely physical set. Through gauzes of white noise spiking suddenly into broad strokes of blatantly acoustic deconstructive scapes, my earplugs become a handy friend.