The Guardian – 3 July 2016
Wysing Polyphonic review – who needs amps, when you’ve got vulture bones?
“Four performers improvised sound on assembled objects (…) with Elaine Mitchener dissolving into anxious glottal tics. She also created a memorable piece with Sam Belinfante, a couple throwing words at each other with the rainstorm hammering the roof celestially mirroring their plight.”
Wysing Arts Centre, Cambridgeshire
In this fascinating get-together for avant-garde musicians exploring sound without electronics, there was ingenuity and thrilling spectacle aplenty.
An all-acoustic festival brings to mind horrifying ranks of guitar-toting troubadours, but this festival, with no amplification or electronics of any kind, instead showed the astonishing health of the UK avant-garde.
Some approached the brief with vocals. Four performers improvised sound on assembled objects – tissue paper, a heat sink, snapped twigs – like a society that had forgotten its rituals, with Elaine Mitchener dissolving into anxious glottal tics. She also created a memorable piece with Sam Belinfante, a couple throwing words at each other with the rainstorm hammering the roof celestially mirroring their plight.
There was more marital strife for Jennifer Walshe and Tomomi Adachi, whose superb nonsense-language dadaism was like a marriage-counselling session mediated by Dr Seuss. Jenny Moore’s band of 12 performers, dungaree-clad and wrapped in silver cardboard, provided the most immediate thrills with euphoric Meredith Monk-style chants about social unease and feminist sci-fi porn, plus clapping games about premature ejaculation.
Over in the wooden shack of a second stage, future icon Adam Christensen delivered Tom Waits-style blues in an evening gown, and Richard Dawson, holding a hairbrush microphone, sang unaccompanied songs that hopped between ultraviolence on the moors and nice family days out.
Others used instrumentation, like Laura Cannell with her chilblained recorder and violin works, and Paul Purgas, who ingeniously created static with A4 paper and a metal bowl. But Barnaby Brown was the most riveting, using vulture bones and Sardinian cane pipes to play stirring Celtic drones. At no point did the quality drop below world class, and all of it without a lick of electricity.