Live reviews

Eppyfest 2016

A complete left-turn with the next artists, Darkroom. Ostensibly a duo comprising guitarist/looper Michael Bearpark and bass clarinettist/synth man/sound whizz Andrew Ostler, for this show they were joined by Turkish guitarist and musical sculptor Hazal Elif Yalvaç. The ambient improvisational soundscapes created by the trio, across two lengthy pieces currently known as Side A and Side B (although the latter was referred to as Hospital Guy), were quite captivating from my seat in the centre of the hall and it was fascinating to watch their creative process at close hand, the music produced often bearing little resemblance to the instruments being wielded. Textural and unhurried, the pieces evolve with fragments of melody appearing, developing and then evaporating. A cleansing and thought provoking performance which I am glad to have had the opportunity to witness.

Jez Rowden, The Progressive Aspect
Original review here

London Loopfest 2013 by Georgina Brett

Fabulous opening with the Bass-clarinet and some beautiful stereo treatment, a little “twin peaks”? lovely guitar compliment by Michael… followed by an almost tactile rhythmic section, made me think of pan sonic for a minute, the guitar part was a lovely continuum…. and the texture thickened. A more free rhythm section with guitar and back into the tactile rhythm, but this time with signal and filter sweeps and a feeling of “sea change”, the impending storm…. then a more industrial bass sets in, wonderfully enigmatic rhythmically to start with and seemingly polyrhythm to a pulsing rhythm… around 14 minutes in it’s complete mayhem… lots of colliding rhythms with the guitar holding up some fabulous textures and chordal shapes… the final section comprises a lovely section of chordal work with the bass clarinet and some complimentary high almost wind sounds in the guitar… very ethereal and beautiful… a set with a journey.. Just can’t get enough of Darkroom.

Georgina Brett

Original article

Darkroom - Assembly House, Norwich, 6th December 2002

It's down to the duo formation of Darkroom - the furthest-out and most introverted of tonight's performers - to start that hopefully infinite curve a-curving. Neat and serenely withdrawn, Mike Bearpark builds up a discreet, thorny hedge of dense textural guitar; while attentive electronics wizard Os continually listens, bushy-bearded head cocked slightly, sliding long arms out to a keyboard or a technology pod to trigger in dubby ripples of sound colour. Alternatively, he could be mixing in a moment of menacing fuzz, distant electric noise, or an unidentifiable found voice plucked out of the air for a moment. Darkroom's improvisations sound like alien radio - signals afloat on an oceanic and cosmic noise, with both Bearpark and Os acting as elusive melody conduits as well as sonic distorters. In some respects, they've taken up Fripp + Eno's baton, but they're far further off the map. Somewhere between the looming drapery of Fripp's latterday Soundscapes with the deconstructive interference-textures of Main - never less than absorbing, as they munch their starfood.

Dann Chinn

Darkroom - Portland Arms, 22nd November 2000

By a curious co-incidence I was thinking just yesterday morning about a TV advert that used to run in Britain for a particular brand of mobile phone, where a concert-bound but airport-trapped string quartet play the gig nevertheless by playing over a mobile phone to the concert venue. What a stupid idea, thought I. Until last night that was. Os's mobile phone played no little part in Darkroom's giglet at the Portland Arms. On the other end of the phone was Tim Bowness (or at least his voicemail), otherwise absent last night. Unfortunately the phone also produced a fair amount of that particularly irritating bip-biddi-bip-biddi-bip sort of interference that phones produce. We were even invited later to call Os's phone ourselves, although no-one realised at the time, so we didn't. Although I suppose we could extend the performance, with a kind of post-Duchampian futility, by calling him at 3 in the morning.

The evening's other curiosity was (by popular demand, apparently ;-)) a guitarless Michael Bearpark, choosing instead to operate drum machine, mini-disc player (with recordings of guitar, natch) and his immodest collection of effects pedals. A single piece of (I estimate) some forty minutes was created, the form of the sound being more sculptural than musical. By sculptural I mean that one of most important tenets of this kind of music is that it is the subtraction of elements that is at least as important as the addition of those same elements. The most deeply affecting part of such pieces for me is the few seconds after the end where mind suddenly has to fill up those spaces driven through it by the sound.

The piece transformed slowly over its duration, incorporating noise, mobile phone calls, synth patches, drum machine and other recorded elements including Michael's absent guitar. Although the sound was often dense and tense, the elements were never strident or incongruous and at times were, relatively speaking, quite mellifluous. Myself and the Goodly Wife were surprised to find ourselves much relaxed by the end. If you have only ever heard Darkroom through recordings then you have to experience them live. The greater space afforded the music means it seems to make much more *sense* and impact. (OK, the same could be said for any kind of music but I think it particularly applies here.)

A word about the visuals. This consisted of a really rather appealing CD-controlled oscilloscope and a gentleman who projected a series of Win98 screensavers onto the stage backdrop. This was rather better than it sounds and was oddly apposite. There were also two or three video cameras in evidence so some footage may well surface on the black market.

Peter Thompson