When it comes to ambient post-rock, you seem to hear the same few names bandied around time after time. Sigur Rós. Mogwai. God is an Astronaut. So what happens when you come across something a little bit different?
It would seemingly be all too easy to smite them down with accusations of copying the heavyweights on the scene, each with their loyal fanbases. But German electronic musician Apparat isn’t quite like anyone else.
As part of the Brighton Festival, the congregation of intrigued festival goers streamed into All Saints Church in Hove. I overheard lots of comments referring to the collective lack of knowledge of the crowd. Nobody quite knew what to expect. This is one of the best things about Brighton Festival: people are willing to take a punt on anything in the name of entertainment and the arts.
Despite the show being held in a church, the music was anything but holy. Admittedly, at first, I did find myself thinking ‘It’s Sigur Rós, of course it is.’ But those thoughts were soon dissipated by the building, pulsating layers of murky noise. Just halfway into the first song, the steady drones were strewn one on top of the other to create a bizarre, chilling soundscape.
One of the interesting things about Apparat’s performance was the relative quiet outside of the music. In the breaks between music, nobody spoke. Nobody on stage said a word. There was no welcome, no thank you. The audience didn’t say anything. But that was important. This wasn’t an evening for bonding. This was an evening where immersion was the focus. Immersion in the drama of the music and the intriguing graphics projected onto the screen on the stage.
The visuals seemed to mirror the music. A simple black square appeared on a white background at the start of one song, and as it progressed, what looked like handfuls of dirt were thrown over the square. The church made a very apt setting for something so reminiscent of earth being thrown into a grave. With every new howling layer of sound, the dirt built up until the screen was almost black, reflecting the deliciously filthy confusion of the final crashing minute.
For a time, around halfway through the show, a single blinding light was shone out into the audience. There was no explanation for it and it didn’t seem to fit in with the music. Everyone bowed their heads in mild discomfort. Perhaps he didn’t want us watching him. After all, the stage had been in darkness for the entirety of the show. It certainly made me focus on the music rather than the cycle of abstract graphics on the backdrop. And that appears to be exactly what the evening was about. It was all about the atmosphere and the music.
It’s interesting that despite performing as Apparat for almost a decade, he is still relatively unknown. Is this deliberate? It’s hard to say. I never really saw his face throughout the entire performance. There was no pandering to the audience and no real interaction. But that was fine. There was something mystifying and dark and strange about the nature of the evening, but it was the kind of strange you want to envelope yourself in over and over again without needing to know the man behind the noise.
More info on Apparat from his website
More info on the Brighton Festival from the website
words Kayleigh Tanner