Laurie Anderson, Lou Reed Drones (2016)Posted: May 17, 2016
Saint Mark’s chapel in Kemptown has been throbbing for five days straight. That is what you get from this piece, a relentless pulse of skuzzy, kilowatt-heavy hum which envelops you.
Where’s the band? You might ask, if you are keen on music of this persuasion. Well, they’ve left behind some eight unmanned guitars leaning on a similar number of vintage amps.
Rather than a performer, we have a soundman, who is putting in these marathon stretches in which he orchestrates the oscillations. ‘Here come the waves,’ as Lou Reed himself once sang.
Yes, this is the much anticipated installation piece by artist and musician Laurie Anderson in which several of her late husband’s guitars are set to feedback in deafening harmony.
It’s a warm bath, which may explain why the crowd in here are dwelling for long minutes at a time. They sit on risers. They lie on the stone floor. One guy in shades has hands clasped in prayer.
But the stained glass cannot compete with the lighting rig and the spots of light which flit around the room like a murmuration of fireflies. Yes, there is a glitter ball. It hangs in the air like a quoted lyric.
This attempt to raise the dead, within the safe confines of an Anglican chapel, feels like a partial success. Lou Reed is surely working his caustic, sonic way into the heart of the assembled crowd.
We have dry ice instead of incense, to remind us that rock rituals have frequently been about the mysteries of faith and the incarnation of rebel angels.
To complain that this gig-like event is not Art, would be churlishness turned up to eleven on the volume dial. The categories hardly matter, because Reed deserves this encore.
Lou Reed Drones had its UK premier between May 13 and 17 as part of the Brighton Festival 2016, guest curated by Laurie Anderson.