Gig review: Living Room in London at Spitalfields Music Summer Festival

Originally published on The Upcoming on 19th June 2013

Living Room in London is a five-piece ensemble featuring some real musical heavy-weights including Björk’s percussionist, members of the London Symphony Orchestra and the “Austrian jazz newcomer of the year”. Their pedigree is unquestionable but drawn from a diverse spectrum, so as you might expect the quintet offer up a uniquely eclectic sound with each member pitching in with their own compositions, plus guest commissions from composers such as Charlie Piper and Cevanne-Horrocks Hopayian.

Living Room in London kicked things off with the thrilling little number Indian Sandpaper, which whirred along at an exhilarating pace. The next tune was in a similar ilk, somewhat ironically named Non-Electronic Song No. 1. Like the previous piece, it was completely acoustic and yet Manu Delago’s masterful command of the hang coupled with the frenetic tempo gave both pieces a very electronic feel, with the euphoria of a pounding house beat or golden-age trance from the late 90s.

The strings of Ellie Frag (violin), Tom Norris (violin/guitar) and Gregor Riddell (cello) were often at the forefront, but the whole thing hung together (excuse the pun) thanks to Delago’s percussion. The latter switched instruments to a xylosynth, a marimba-like instrument which triggers samples for Mnemonic (composed by Charlie Piper) and again for New Work for Xylosynth and Cello. The xylosynth added an extra dimension to the ensemble, chiming in with new sounds and perhaps redressing the contemporary/classical balance.

The quintet showed off their humorous side with Tubular Pulp, an ode to the iconic theme tune of cult classic Pulp Fiction via all sorts of diverse musical references both popular and classical. It brought audible giggles from the audience in places. But the highlight was arguably Cevanne Horrocks-Hopayian’s How is a World like a Window? – an intriguing, vivacious stop-start piece. The audience were treated to an explanation of its experimental score, which had a square (like a window) cut out on each page, partially revealing notes below with each musician having a different version.

The unique and basement-like acoustic of Village Underground complemented the fusion sounds of Living Room in London, making for an enjoyable if atypical concert experience.

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