Orbital Decay, a duo consisting of Terry Furber and Scott Watkins opened the concert with a single multi-media piece, called Galactic Sandstorm (correct me if I didn't this right, OD). Terry said after the concert that the score for the music was the video itself. It indeed is an excellent score. Terry has been working on the video for months. The video is made of images of trees, clouds, space pictures (real photos from Nasa including the Hubble Space Telescope, and artists' animation) , and many computer generated images basted on fractals. Terry is really getting into making videos. I expect to see these at all future Orbital Decay performances.
The new video is really beautiful. The form of the piece is symmetrical; starting from Earthly views of trees and clouds through views of the macro universe - planets, nebulae and galaxies, into the mathematical constructs of expanding or contracting fractals (zoom in and out - simultaneously) and back to Earth in reverse order. The music follows the video through alternating sections of pulsating pattern-based rhymthic sequences and spacey ambient soundscapes.
Orbital Decay breaks new ground at every new performance. Not only was the visual part impressive, but the music itself was as usual top notch. To me, the music seemed to have a number of melodic themes that unified the 45 minute set. I think these melodies were mostly played by Scott on the processed guitar, but it's hard to tell with electronic music. I do know that Orbital Decay does not use any prerecorded music. Everything is played live in real time. They are purists in this regard. This gives their music a perceivable level of excitement, even in the most relaxed ambient sections.
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The music they played was again alternating ambient spacey music separated by pulsing sequences in 4/4 time. I especially enjoy Art's guitar playing. He sometimes plays obtuse non-tonal melodies that are quite original. Often he plays bluesy figures with the pulsating rhythms as well. I must say, I thought of the Blues Brothers at times with the costumes and the wailing blues guitar sounds. Lot's of fun.
They did two pieces that sounded quite similar to me, but the last section of the first one was exceptionally beautiful. There was a very sparse sequence of bell-like sounds, but the tempo was considerably slower than usual. This was more like an adagio. This sequence was supported by a beautiful drone-like like pad - not strictly a drone; it did change pitch at a very slow tempo. There were haunting melodies on top. I was reminded of the beautiful slow movements of Mozart.
That was the last Gathering of 2003. I look forward to 2003.