Birds of Fire

Electroscope at the Sharmanka Kinetic Theatre, Glasgow

By Michael Kemp

Review of Electroscope at Sharmanka Kinetic Theatre, Glasgow , .

Electroscope
Electroscope at the Sharmanka Kinetic Theatre

The White Russian cocktail hits parched lips ~ spirits mingle ~ vodka and kahlua ~ milk and honey fed ~ and a spell is cast upon the night ~ high above the Merchant City ~ an invocation ~ an astral projection ~ a white mist rises up and obscures all vision until our smoke clears and we are confronted with a small impressionistic Caligari-esque stage ~ shades of Hesse’s Magic Theatre ~ a door bearing a sign: "Magic Theatre - For Madmen Only” ~ and out of the white mist comes forth an electronic tone, a few initial sonic frequencies, a blast of feedback; and the steady drone of a heavily amped-up stylophone (“and the price is right, the cost of one admission is your mind…”)

Lights flicker, a VCS3 rumbles into life and oscillates away like a demented Tardis, as John Cavanagh coaxes experimental Third Ear Band landscapes from his dark clarinet; while Gayle Brogan fires up the female shaman ~ the spell of the feminine ~ and brings forth a gentle but potent sorcery with space voice, bewitched zither and a string of enchanted hand bells.

Out of the cauldron of sound (what colour IS sound?) familiar forms appear: an inspired cover of Syd Barrett’s meandering and unsettling “Rats” (“rats, rats, lay down flat ~ we don't need you, we act like that…”) ~ as one of Eduard Bersudsky’s strange automaton sculptures, “The Time of Rats”, jerks into synchronised mechanical life behind us ~ and then an extended take on David Vorhaus and Delia Derbyshire’s “Firebird” ~ (from White Noise’s seminal “Electrical Storm” album).

Bersudsky’s grim carved figures and re-assembled industrial detritus (a Singer sewing machine here, a disembodied lawnmower there) clank into astonishing life, telling tales of the perennial trials of the beleaguered human spirit ~ at war with the Military, the dances and temporary catharsis of sex, the confines of mortality ~ the Rules of The Game. Mysterious machines in motion entitled “The Tower of Babel”, “The Clock of Life”, “The Eternal Triangle of Love”. Gayle glimpsed in shadow, slowly rubbing her back up and down against a stone pillar, languidly, luxuriously, like a caged tiger ~ amongst the sanctuary of smoke and mirrors (“Firebird, fly high, fly free, I can't hold you down ~ you're too wild for me…”). And, towards the end, the two invisible shadow-cloaked musicians of Electroscope, incantation bells in hand, escape the mortal confines of the Caligari fairground stage and together undertake a slow motion celebratory lap of honour around the stuttering automatons and the “cable, gable, splintra, channel” of the extraordinary Sharmanka Kinetic Theatre…