Saturday, 14 February 2009

Bitjam @ The Rigger 5th February 2009

Review by Charlotte Lunt

Photos by Scott Sharman

Bitjam is a wonderful anomaly within the local music scene. For some the thought of getting on to a stage completely unrehearsed is simply a recurring nightmare, for Bitjam it is their raison d’etre. Once a month at The Rigger, Audio Congress (Ben, Carl, Philsy and Matt) host an evening of improvised electronica with some residencies such as Kettlehead and also an extended invitation to fellow musicians to join them for a jam session, or to perform their own set. Fully embracing technology, tonight’s audience was both real and virtual with a live on-line feed allowing observation and comments from across the globe.

Tonight’s performance starts with Audiocongress’s Matt and Ben providing a stripped down ambient set with trace’s of 70’s funk bass lines combined with 80’s synths layering over them. Showing the synergy between the performers, and adding another dimension to the music Philsy unassumingly joins the stage to play keys, and they remain a three-piece until the end of the half hour set, taking their audience on the journey with them.

Next on the stage are guest performers Bembaya Funk, a group of local and Brazilian musicians who provided a crowded stage with instruments ranging from to familiar keys, bass and drum kit, to conga’s and traditional birenbow. This unusual ensemble seamlessly combines Brazilian and Cuban music with jazz, soul and funk using traditional rhythms and rules as well as improvisation. Through the use of call and response patterns to ‘re-group’ musicians and allowing them to explore their own creativity the group give a commanding performance, which will hopefully be the first of many in the area.

For the first time since Bitjam relocated to The Rigger, tonight’s performance was complemented by visuals by Optical Fury, who provided a range of visuals throughout the evening, as a creative backdrop to the music. During a brief musical performance interlude, the audience were treated to a soundtrack by Audio Mill which accompanied visual art by Rob Pointon and Big Red Studio. Combining many schools of thought this art also reflects the ethos of the evening, with roots in both fine art and social commentary.

Sneaking on to the stage amidst the jungle mic stands, Kettlehead starts his set. As with the Audiocongress there are no specifically identifiable tracks but rather themes that develop and flow into each other. Picking up the tempo and playing with tremendous nonchalance and pint in hand he has a more old school approach, not only in the style of music he composes but also I am reliably informed in his choice of software.

Audiocongress take to the stage again for the final set of the night with its full four piece line up, and jamming with Dan and Nick from ‘What would the Captain do’ providing more ambient tunes and creating a relaxed atmosphere to round up the evenings performances.

Whilst it might take a small leap of faith to regard some of tonight’s performers as musicians with some of the tools of their trade being laptops and sequencers, after seeing a live performance there can be no doubt that they are. Although Bitjam cannot be described as a gig, it is far more of an event and the inclusion of differing art forms throughout the evening shows that it is gaining greater recognition from the artistic community, and building momentum.

Bitjam takes place on the first Thursday of each month at the Rigger from 9pm, all welcome whether audience or performers.