Sonic Erotics & Longing for Nothingness: Modern Love at The Light Box
Entering the darkened room of The Light Box at Goldman Warehouse on Saturday night, you had to spread dangling, decorative ropes: black, braided, tasseled ones, evocative of bondage (the promise was kept).
Modern Love, the Manchester-based techno label, is touring the United States and showcasing its influential netherworldly aesthetic, and was brought here to Miami by underground collective SAFE. Contrary to the basic, eager-to-please commercialism of the dance and electronic music that floods Miami, the UK imprint puts out records that invite patient reflection on the wider vagaries of (sub)conscious existence: bleakness, violent crises, the ebb and flow of the gulf between pleasure and deeply abiding love, to wit just a few.
The show on Saturday was a breath of rare air for the city, and was thusly not very crammed. Arriving a bit late meant that Sean Canty’s solo set was missed, but he was caught as one-half of Demdike Stare, alongside Miles Whittaker. The reward was vicissitudes of thick noise and contorted samples that started out alarmingly meditative, then dropped with a post-punk groove. The set eventually broke open into an almost nü-metal sharpness, harshly distorted, just shy of danceable, yet whirling with questions.
Andy Stott, whose 2009 record Luxury Problems is rightfully praised as essential, came next. In ways more humane than Demdike Stare’s harshly populated landscapes, Stott’s cache of breathy vocals from his former piano teacher Alison Skidmore–which feature prominently on Luxury Problems–are masterfully sculpted and rendered hauntingly and sensually instrumental. But though the set started with bittersweet, fragrant sublimity, it quickly picked up, exposing Stott’s hard, quiet labor as a formidable artist of bass and beat.
Without pausing, Millie & Andrea (Miles Whittaker of Demdike Stare and Andy Stott) went hard and gave wild shape and definition to the concept of getting turnt. A raw and most concentrated heaviness slided into playful, carefree chemistry, and the two hour set was blissed out at high paces: polyrhythmic breakbeats turned into proper British dubstep, followed by the wet claps and snares of booty bass respect, paid in full. Existential jamming-out grew throughout the semi-sparse but reverent audience.
Promoted as techno in an artsier context, the show succeeded with impressive visualization and sound, technically and curatorially, and satisfied the intellectual and then baser needs of the audience. Intimate and experiential though it was, a stark and dismal tone throughout: no matter the dance, death will leave you silent. So, more reason to dance.
This post was contributed by Rob Goyanes.