I was intrigued by the performance I was heading to see at St Georges in Bristol on Friday night. Billed as a ‘unique sound and vision experience’ from the Hidden Orchestra and Limbic Cinema it seemed like quite a change from anything else I have seen at this venue. St. Georges is a place where I feel more comfortable at folk gigs and often intimidated by the audience goers at performances of a more classical concerto style. The crowd tonight was an eclectic mix of young hipsters and the more well-healed older generation, but I didn’t feel too out of place despite not belonging to either group. Although by no means sold out, there was a pretty full auditorium, and plenty of the audience were devoted fans judging by the whoops of appreciation as the band took to the stage. This gig was also one of the launch events for the Filmic 2018 season, their exploration of creative collaborations in film and music, in partnership with Colston Hall and the Watershed.
Hidden Orchestra is the solo project of multi-instrumentalist, composer and producer Joe Acheson who is currently based in Brighton. For the music he produces, Joe separately records the music of varied guest musicians from a wide range of musical genres and combines them in his studio to create the overall sound, hence the name Hidden Orchestra. The music is multi-layered, but the orchestra behind it doesn’t really exist. The live experience is equally rich, bringing the musical talents of Poppy Ackroyd on piano and violin, both Jamie Graham and Tim Lane on drums with a little bit of trombone thrown into the mix from Tom as well. The band has been developing some incredible audio-visual setups as part of their live touring, and tonight the visuals were provided by Limbic Cinema, a Bristol-based video design studio who specialise in the creating site specific projection using moving imagery and light. What we saw tonight was created by Thom Price, Alex Wright and Tom Newell for Limbic Cinema.
I came to this gig thinking I was not really a devotee of electronica, but I was more comfortable with this genre than I expected to be, as much of the performance reminded me of the explorations of my favourite musical artist Bjork who has more recently been combining often quite avant garde sonics with a grand, sweeping and overarchingly emotional orchestral accompaniment. Hidden Orchestra were a little more down to earth and much more the sort of music you would dance to; overall I enjoyed the show and the beautiful visuals added to my engagement. Not all the songs did it for me and by the end of the hour and a half set I had definitely had enough, but I’d probably give them another listen if I caught them on a festival line-up for instance. It was a musical night that was not for everyone; my companion was not so into it although he did appreciate the quality of the musicianship.
An important issue for me was the fact that the show is meant to be something you become fully immersed in, losing yourself in the pulsing, slightly trippy visuals accompanying the rhythms and music. However, there seemed to be a huge amount of people who just couldn’t put their phones away, which spoiled the experience for me. The couple next to us were taking photos and video almost every five minutes or so which proved incredibly distracting. The phone screens lighting up in the main part of the hall so regularly throughout the gig took something away from the ambiance and made it just that little bit harder to become as immersed as I wanted to. Perhaps that is why I can only say I liked this gig rather than loved it, but its not a critique of any of the performers or people involved. I am a really visual person but I also get easily distracted by outside stimulus, and this took something away for me. Technology is an incredible thing at times, as this was perfectly illustrated by the blend of music and visual from the Hidden Orchestra and Limbic Cinema. I guess I am more old fashioned than I would like to think though, as I miss the days where gigs were watched and experienced, rather than seen through a screen during the event, and then probably not looked at after!
Review by Karen Blake