Members of Melbourne bands Niko Niko and The Kumiko Sex Band bring an all-new musical experience to Adelaide Fringe this year.
The Dark Space Performances is a collaboration between the bands that present a continuous piece of semi-improvised music performed entirely in the dark.
The idea is to make the music itself the focus, rather than visual aspects of a standard rock show. “The idea came from seeing a show a couple of years ago by an African band called Amadou & Mariam, a blind married couple, and it was completely in the dark,” bassist Andre Solano says.
“It was excellent; you hear every single note, every mistake as well of course, but every note has a little more importance because you're not distracted by any visual thing.
"Also they played a set of ten or twelve songs; I thought if I was to do that I would turn it into one, long piece that gradually builds up for a whole experience. No breaks in between, just one, long, fluid piece.”
Without visual accoutrements such as lighting or being able to see the band's onstage presence, the audience acquires a heightened sensory perception of the sounds being played. “It opens up the sound a little bit more I feel, the audience aren't as distracted,” Andre says.
“They're not going to be paying attention to what the band looks like, what the band is wearing or the people around them even; it's going to be all about the sound.”
In terms of style, Andre says the piece they are performing will cross a number of genres. He says that although the piece is mostly improvised, it's structure is guided by a set of parameters in which the band must operate musically.
“So generally it will start off in a very lush, ambient fashion,” he says.
“We'll be using modular synthesizers, violins going through effects pedals and bass going through loops, so it's layer upon layer of lush sound to start off with. Then from there it will gradually turn into a pretty psychedelic jam probably with space rock and Kraut rock influences.”
Given this structure, the piece is vastly open to interpretation by the performers. Andre says each night of the show will offer something different from the previous one, making a varied experience for returning audiences.
“We're hoping people come back because even though we have parameters musically, it is going to be improvised within those parameters,” he says.
“So there's going to be different [synthesizer] patches every night, there's going to be different keys and it's going to build up differently so that people enjoy the experience first time and be able to come the next night and have the same-but-different experience.
“I just hope people find it interesting and see it as a purely musical experience, unlike a lot of other rock & roll gigs where there's a scene attachment and all that sort of stuff.”