The organisers of Future Everything festival have taken Martin at his word in deciding to stage tonight’s organ performance by Canadian sound artist Tim Hecker in near-darkness.
It’s an inspired decision, although this kind of enforced sensory deprivation seems to be having a cultural moment – blind Malian duo Amadou & Mariam recently toured in the dark as a means of helping audiences understand the visually impaired, while Mancunian Matters recently went south of the M25 to visit London eatery Dans Le Noir, which offers diners the chance to consume a meal in pitch darkness (a bib is recommended).
As the audiences take to their pews and the lights are turned out in Salford’s beautiful St Phillip’s Church, leaving only a twilight glow from the vast windows, the Montreal-based Hecker begins to work his magic, wringing serene sounds from the church’s organ. The darkness somewhat hinders the journalist's taking of notes, which is just as well because this is music that threatens to inspire a tidal wave of adjectives and metaphor: “bubbling” organ chords, wavelets crashing, a constant ebb and flow.
Hearing Hecker’s work in a religious space seems apt though. There’s a devotional quality to it – this is music to meditate to rather than to analyse, there for you to close your eyes and weave stories in your head.
Support comes from the fantastic Forest Swords, who apparently survived a car crash to make it here tonight. They play a live set with bass, guitar and decks. Brooding basslines rumble and skitterish drums loop in front of a screen showing solarised visions of dancers, lost in formation, strings of disembodied fairground lights and industrial chimneys belching smoke surrounded by barb wire.
Forest Swords operate in that pleasingly genreless space that's opened up for the Spotify generation (this is a band who have made music out of x-rays and one of whom wrote a score to an episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians).
There’s a definite post-rock influence at times (think Godspeed You! Black Emperor), but fused with film scores, doom rock, and hip hop. Trying to define their sound, a companion goes for "22nd century gothic rain dance", which seems as good as anything. At times there's a much dancier aesthetic at work too - at one point an ascending bassline segues into a full drum and bass workout. This sort of music meanders intentionally - occasionally it does threatens to wonder off entirely before, all of a sudden, there's a moment of thrilling synchronicity between samples, basslines and on-screen visuals.
In the end though, this was Tim Hecker's night. As he slips out like a masked comic book hero before the lights come up, you can only conclude that Tony Martin knew what he was talking about.