OUTLANDS – The Joyous Thing: Secret Flight / BodyVice

Two polar opposite live performances forming part of The Joyous Thing, a weekend of events at Milton Keynes Gallery investigating the UK experimental music scene. The Joyous Thing is part of the nationwide OUTLANDS interdisciplinary project.

Secret Flight is a local MK electronic musician whose current concerns involve fusing reverb-drenched vocals to delicate synth melodies and minimalist rhythms. The result is dreamy, angelic, choir-like voices delivered with a gauzy, hypnotic warmth, only laced with an uncertain quality somewhere between intense rapture and crushing disappointment. Her last album, 2018’s My Forever Mirage is a brilliant and understated gem of an album. Listen to My Forever Mirage at Bandcamp.

BodyVice is the latest project from Natalie Sharp, best known for her audacious, confrontational performances as Lone Taxidermist and as a Gazelle Twin collaborator. For BodyVice, the subject matter is the intense and excruciating back pain that she suffers with, and finds her channelling her experience at the hands of doctors as they seek to identify the cause.

Beginning with a hospital gown-wearing male collaborator’s Irvine Welsh-style delivery of what initially sounds like a misty-eyed recollection of a Speedy J set at a Belgian rave – all intense beats of rising velocity and modulating electronics – it becomes apparent that he is, in fact, describing an MRI scan experience. What ensues is nothing short of unnerving – Sharp (with a collaborator and occasional flautist) rotating on turntables against a backdrop of howling, impenetrable noise to evoke the claustrophobia and unnatural experience of an MRI scan, all frantic, rising rhythms and industrial-strength walls of unending sound.

The performance then proceeds through angry lists of precautionary statements from a clipboard waiver, mesmerising sounds and non-melodies played on modified spinal chords (pun intended) designed by Tara Pattenden (Phantom Chips), guttural invocations worthy of Diamanda Galás and a thrilling coda of punishing, strobe-lit industrial techno as Sharp douses herself in fake blood while screaming.

According to Sharp, BodyVice is a reaction against the proliferation of stale, insipid electronic-musician-on-stage-with-MacBook performances. It is most definitely that. It is also uncomfortable, challenging and frequently terrifying; as a physical, visual and aural metaphor for Natalie Sharp’s chronic pain, it is forcibly and viscerally accurate.

January 25 2020. Thanks to Zoe and Simon. MK Gallery: mkgallery.org

Words and terrible photographs: Mat Smith

(c) 2020 Further.