Live Music + Gig Reviews

Seth Rees @ Arc, Dunedin

8 July 2004

Self-stated “atmospheric guitarist” Seth Rees, one half of Melbourne duo I Want A Hovercraft (with Sarah-Jane Wentzki), was making an appearance at Dunedin’s fashionable Arc venue to air solo the sort of music best played on CD in the dark with absolutely no distractions.

The quietly spoken musician tonight faced the tall order of convincing an audience of wide-ranging hairstyles atop chattering heads that he should be listened to – as support to a noisy trash outfit, he was not an obvious choice for this gig, but clearly he was game for trying.

One guitar was the set’s only conventional instrument, but this dreamy-looking noisenik clearly follows the school of thought which says if anything produces sound, use it – see also Matmos, Aphex Twin and Sigur Ros. Thus it was that myriad effects pedals, wires and complicated-looking machinery surrounded the lone figure on stage. At one point he began whipping the floor with what seemed to be a length of flex – creating a delay-effect percussion of sorts with a beat you couldn’t dance to even in slo-mo.

Highly whimsical and freestyled, there was nothing here with so much as a structure – and that’s plainly the way Rees likes it. At the earliest hint of a memorable beat, phrase or sound, he’d fiddle with this pedal or that device, twiddle some dials or punch some buttons and it would be lost as though it’d never been. Idiosyncratic invention was the order of play.

Wisely, Rees broke between each new experimental texture – song is scarcely the appropriate a word to apply to any of this man’s work – to acknowledge the audience’s smattering of applause, thus demarcating the limits of each track. However, announcements through an FX-laden microphone were largely superfluous and unintelligible – imagine a Dalek drowned in a bath tub. We’re sure what he said was very nice.

Several textures in to the set came the crux – had he won over the audience with his noisemaking? A group of four chatted loudly in a corner of the room; the rest of the audience stared daggers at them to no avail. Rees was too modest in his own space to ask for quiet, although it was essential that we have it. Eventually a baying hoarde hollered “SHUT UP!” at the chattering classes. Rees quietly looked grateful – most of the room wanted to listen to him after all.

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Seth Rees @ Arc, Dunedin