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  • Miles Hedley

NONCLASSICAL at the Albany


Pure sound, like pure colour in a painting, can be transcendent, revealing depths of consciousness undreamt of in daily life. I had that experience during a set by Dan Samsa at the Albany when, bathed in red light and being bombarded by sub-bass scoops from an amazing dub system, I felt as if I had been absorbed into one of Mark Rothko’s extraordinary Seagrams pictures which have always, for me, explored the outer limits of human possibility.


Samsa, associate composer with the pioneering Nonclassical label, unleashed 20 minutes of one of the most mind-bending soundscapes I have ever heard. Its components were deceptively simply – a repeating motif of a countertenor singing at Southwark Cathedral laid over an electronica score fed into the Albany’s circular auditorium through a 360-degree matrix of speakers boosted by eight of Unit 137’s sub-bass speakers. The throb made my chest cavity vibrate almost visibly.


Samsa shared the bill with Luke David Harris and Kamikaze Space Programme, whose equally stunning contributions added to the feeling of being drawn out of the everyday into some kind of heightened reality – and all without the need for artificial stimulants.


Some onlookers danced in trance-like bliss or moved slowly among the crowd to experience the effects of surround-sound speakers while others sat cross-legged on the floor lost in meditative introspection. But most people chose to stand in the centre of the sonic circle, swaying from side to side as if mesmerised.


This is not the sort of thing you’d take to if melody was your primary concern. But if you want a near-visceral experience of sensory overload as well as a glimpse into the musical future, this astonishing evening ticked all the boxes.