GayBird Leung is one of Hong Kong’s leading new media artists, and in his first Australian appearance he brought to OzAsia Festival a performance of live electronica in collaboration with Adelaide’s Zephyr Quartet.
Featuring an array of complex electronic instruments, Leung’s show was structured in two sets themed on a backwards movement through time. The program also included the intimate live electronica of opening act Tracy Chen, who in a beautiful start to the evening built loops and samples on the fly using instruments, her voice, and even scrunched paper to create languid, layered songs with fragile, vulnerable vocals.
Leung’s first set plunged headlong into a chopped-up, future-focused exploration of glitch and electronic sounds, a diverse and energised piece that skirted the edges of techno, synth pop and disco, ahead of further sonic deconstruction and manipulation.
With a sound seemingly influenced by acts such as Kraftwerk and Cornelius, the set was also a visual treat, with an on-stage sculpture of metallic spheres creating a reflected network of red lasers all focusing on the screen in a single red point, from which designs and animations emanated. Images evoking scientific and mathematical measurement gave way to stylised scenes of modern urban life and advertising-like graphics that splashed behind the music in gorgeous colours.
The stage was cleared for the second set and Leung was joined by Zephyr Quartet, whose cross-genre instincts and history of appearances at festivals such as Unsound Adelaide ensured they were right at home in this experimental collaboration.
From the outset the string quartet and Leung’s sonic explorations operated in two distinct streams. Some of the loveliest moments were also the most ‘analog’, such as when Leung employed a hand-operated siren or slowly dropped objects onto a board strung with thick metal springs to create arresting and atmospheric backdrops for the strings.
The focus of the piece alternated between Leung and the strings, and the quartet shone when given space. The work was hampered by a slight lack of cohesion between the two presences, and despite the obvious talent on display it did seem as though each half existed to decorate the other as they took turns in the spotlight.
With an impressive listing of worldwide exhibitions and productions to his credit, Leung sits at the vivid intersection of musical and visual arts. In Music in Anticlockwise he perhaps hovered a bit non-committally in that middle ground.
Music in Anticlockwise was performed at Nexus Arts on Friday, October 8, 2017