Cafe Oto, London
By Lucy Harrison
Based on the listings for Modern Ritual, a night that explored the concept of ritual through music and words, I was expecting something that took itself a little too seriously. The description contained a rather long list of nouns, and mentioned a 30 minute snare solo. It was intriguing, but had the potential to be on the heavy side.
So I was pleasantly surprised by the humour that ran through the evening. The event had a wonderful welcoming atmosphere. With the audience crowded close to the performance area, and eager for new experiences, this seemed more like a gathering of friends than a gig. And the theme of modern rituals was a clever choice, allowing performers some flexibility while creating a very tangible through line to the event.
The evening started with a bold and bittersweet reading about sexual encounters in Epping Forrest, which was followed by a charming soundtracked documentary about the history of the foghorn. The electronic improvisation by Hoofus, however, did struggle with the amount of creative freedom given to the performer. It is a temptation with electronics to use all of the modules available, and the result was a little baggy and unstructured – not the best showcase for Hoofus’s evident skills.
In contrast, Charles Hayward’s 30 minute snare solo was built on limiting creative possibilities, creating a more compelling piece. By extending a simple technique across 30 minutes, Hayward was able to explore and demonstrate the potential of the instrument.
As well as being an extremely engaging performer in her own right, event creator Laura Cannell has a real skill for curation. The artists fully understood the aims of the evening, delivering thoughtful performances. [Modern Ritual] is the first in a series of events happening throughout the year. If this first evening is anything to go by, the ones to come should be a treat.