Brighton Magazine

The Brighton Magazine

Selected Brighton Magazine Article

Thursday 17 May 2018

Brighton Festival 2018 Review: Robbie Thompson's XFRMR @ The Spire

My first visit to The Spire. As you may have guessed from the name it was once a church (St Mark's Chapel, in East Brighton). This one has been converted to an arts venue. It still looks very much like a church though, just missing the pews and altar etc and of course, it has a stage… and wonderfully, and at least on this night, a foyer with seating and a bar.

I loved it as soon as I walked in, dark, dirty, throbbing and not horribly crowded (yup, we were a little late and the artist had already started his set).

Robbie Thompson's work was commissioned by Cryptic for Sonica 2016 and was developed at Cove Park.  

Cryptic is award winning and internationally renowned producing arts house, and Sonica, 'sonic arts for the visually minded' is a year round award-winning touring program dedicated to world-class sonic arts with an eleven day biennial festival in Glasgow and a biennial weekend at Kings Place, London.

Robbie Thompson, based in Glasgow, is a Cryptic associate visual artist working in sound, kinetic sculptures and visuals. His Cryptic projects have been presented around the world. 


The idea behind XFRMR is to use a Tesla coil as a direct way to of synthesizing sound with electricity.

The coil becomes a becomes an acoustic instrument that uses the raw organic energy of plasma to create distorted tones and harsh percussive stabs in a fragmented composition of rough edged techo and pulsating waveforms.

Being partial to hardcore electronic music and good visuals I had been looking forward to this.

Walking in to the main hall I immediately felt I had entered into world that drew its main inspiration from Dr Who and Back to the Future. 

On the stage was a huge cage… and then I remembered... of course, the faraday cage, a mesh used to block the electromagnetic signals produced by an electrostatic conductor. 

The electrostatic conductor enclosed by the cage looked like a 60's idea of an alien, a weird metal mushroom and it was emitting bursts of pulsating, twisting static electricity (much like the more famous Van der Graaf Generator does). 

These burst were somehow fed in the audio system so we could hear them within Robbie Thompson's techno soundtrack. 

The initial sight of this thing centre stage, with a diminutive human to the left hunched over a laptop and the light playing over the cage was pretty jaw-dropping. Sadly that was the best bit.

Thompson's soundtrack referenced three artists I have a lot of respect for; Christian Fennez, Hazard and Aphex Twin, but it did not reach their mark. 

Thompson's composition had none of the clever knowingness and intricately designed audio landscape, and little of the technical excellence of his contempories. 

The electrostatic emissions and the light show kept our attention for twenty minutes, but that was it. 

The show only lasted about an hour but to keep one's attention for that long the audio should have been better. 

Still, I enjoyed the spectacle but it might have been better if I'd taken some appropriate drugs!

Brighton Festival 2018 runs until 27th May. CLICK HERE for more info.

by: Simon Turner




Share    


Etta James' frantic recording and touring schedule coincided with her ever growing addiction problems and over time she not only sang the blues, she lived the blues. 

This month the 'sophisticated and stylish popsters' All Saints will play an intimate gig in Brighton, on behalf of Nordoff Robbins, the UK's largest independent music therapy charity.

Make way for protest singer, LGBTQ+ activist, folk singer, socialist and social commentator Grace Petrie.

Sat in the TV room at The Courtlands Hotel, in Hove, on the evening of 1st December 1973, with just one other guest. That was a twelve year-old me (ed) and a sockless and scowling Brian Clough. On the screen were 'the highlights' of Brighton & Hove Albion getting hammered 2-8 by Bristol Rovers. Clough was the co-manager of the Albion!

Northern psychedelic punks The Lovely Eggs have unleased their new album 'This Is Eggland', ahead of a date in Brighton.

A full twenty-five years after the release of Baka Beyond's debut album, Spirit of the Forest, the band celebrate their beginnings with a date in Sussex, re-joined after a long absence by Paddy Le Mercier, a member of the original line-up.

A follow up to Sue MacLaine's award winning work Can I Start Again Please, Vessel takes inspiration from the remarkable history of Anchoritism to ask if voluntary solitude could ever be defined as a political act. 

In the year that has seen knife crime in the UK soar to an unprecedented level, writer and actress Ambreen Razia, presents POT, which goes inside the corrupt and violent world of inner city gang culture. 
Photo by Delaney Brooks

Sussex-based music charity, AudioActive, has taken a big step towards their vision to establish the UK's first centre for excellence for the talent development of marginalised and under-represented artists in Worthing, thanks to £92,618 National Lottery funding through Arts Council England.
Barbara Windsor Memory Walkers

Sussex resident Arianne McGarrigle recently joined a tide of people to unite against dementia at Brighton and Hove Memory Walk


Ian Hislop and Nick Newman have taken inspiration from real life events for their new play Trial by Laughter, based on their critically acclaimed original BBC Radio 4 drama of the same name.

Multi-award winning songwriter and musician, theatre maker and published writer Kartine Polwart's seventh release, Laws of Motion, is the follow-up to last year's A Pocket of Wind Resistance, which was an innovative blend of folk music, spoken word & sound design. 

Benefit Cosmetics joined forces with Alice Skinner and a team of street artists to create two inspiring murals. The artworks celebrate the collaborative efforts of women, who support each other's 'brow-raising' actions and accomplishments.  

Ahead of a one-off date at Brighton's Hope & Ruin, Bristol based multi-instrumentalist producer and visual artist She Makes War has released her new single Devastate Me, taken from her upcoming album Brace For Impact. 

Archive search

Search our archives for what's on and gone for the best of this city's theatre music comedy news and much more...







Organising a conference or event in Brighton?
See our Brighton Conference section.
Brighton web design by ...ntd